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Wilfried Van Moer, Belgium’s ‘Little General,’ dies at 76

August 25, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this file photo dated June 3, 1970, Wilfried Jan Van Moer, red shirt at centre, scores his second goal for Belgium against El Salvador, in Group A qualifying round of World Cup soccer action at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico. Belgium won 3-0.  The Belgian Football Association said Wednesday Aug. 25, 2021, that Belgium soccer great Wilfried van Moer, nicknamed the “Little General,"  has died. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated June 3, 1970, Wilfried Jan Van Moer, red shirt at centre, scores his second goal for Belgium against El Salvador, in Group A qualifying round of World Cup soccer action at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico. Belgium won 3-0. The Belgian Football Association said Wednesday Aug. 25, 2021, that Belgium soccer great Wilfried van Moer, nicknamed the “Little General," has died. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, FILE)
FILE - In this file photo dated June 3, 1970, Wilfried Jan Van Moer, red shirt at centre, scores his second goal for Belgium against El Salvador, in Group A qualifying round of World Cup soccer action at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico. Belgium won 3-0. The Belgian Football Association said Wednesday Aug. 25, 2021, that Belgium soccer great Wilfried van Moer, nicknamed the “Little General," has died. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, FILE)

LEUVEN, Belgium (AP) — Wilfried Van Moer, nicknamed the “Little General” who played in two World Cups and led Belgium to the 1980 European Championship final, has died. He was 76.

The former midfielder suffered a brain hemorrhage and died at a hospital in Leuven, the Belgian soccer association said Wednesday.

“We lost a legend today. Thank you for everything, Kleine Generaal,” the Belgium national team wrote on Twitter.

Van Moer scored nine goals in 57 international appearances and represented Belgium at the 1970 and 1982 World Cups. He scored twice in a 3-0 victory over El Salvador in Belgium’s only win at the 1970 tournament in Mexico.

The 5-foot-6 midfielder sustained a broken leg from a tackle against Italy in 1972 and it nearly ended his international career.

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But coach Guy Thys turned to Van Moer for his leadership qualities in the qualifying campaign for the 1980 European Championship in Italy. Belgium qualified and made a surprise run all the way to the final, losing to West Germany 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Van Moer was a three-time Belgium player of the year during a 19-year club career, playing for hometown Beveren and then most notably for Antwerp, Standard Liège and Beringen. He retired as a player in 1984 and briefly coached the Belgium national team in 1996.

In 2004, he was voted onto the “platinum eleven” of best-ever Belgian players.

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