Belgium have ‘got the world at their feet’, says Martinez

Date published: Thursday 4th August 2016 1:01

Roberto Martinez: Manager replaces Marc Wilmots

Roberto Martinez: Manager replaces Marc Wilmots

Roberto Martinez has expressed his excitement at the quality of players at his disposal after being appointed manager of the Belgium national team.

The former Everton, Swansea and Wigan boss was appointed on Wednesday to lead the Euro 2016 quarter-finalists in their qualifying campaign for the World Cup in Russia in two years’ time.

“I felt this was a great opportunity, a great challenge, and I’m thankful to the Belgian FA,” he said.

“I’ve been working with Belgian players and I’ve been intrigued by Belgian football, the talent of the Belgium players is there to be seen. I’m humbled, proud, honoured to be the head coach of Belgium as a country. It will be a special journey together, to support these players that have got the world at their feet.”

One of those players he has previously worked with is Everton striker Romelu Lukaku – who, along with club and country team-mate Kevin Mirallas, saw his form drop off badly towards the end of Martinez’s reign.

Martinez’s stated aim to “turn Romelu Lukaku into a world-class striker” immediately raised some eyebrows, but despite players not fulfilling their potential under him at club level Martinez believes his approach is a good fit for Belgium.

“My style is very clear and it goes along with this Belgian team,” he said at a press conference streamed on the Red Devils’ Facebook page.

“We will always work to be on the ball and be an attacking team, but you have to be able to defend. We want to play attractive football but we have to win.”

Belgium are coming off the two best major championship performances in their history after also reaching the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup.

Martinez is aware of the country’s desire to go even further on the big stage, but warned against over-burdening players with expectations.

“Sometimes there seemed too much pressure, carrying the hopes of the country, and we’re all responsible for that,” he said. “We can’t be fearful of what the outside world says about Belgium.

“What’s realistic is to fulfil their potential. We have the talent but it’s not just about talent, you need to build a winning mentality and you need to play without too much expectation in a ‘golden generation’.

“We haven’t won the World Cup, we haven’t won the European Championship, and we have to fight for that.”

September 1’s friendly against his native Spain gives Martinez a fitting start to his reign, before a first competitive outing against Cyprus five days later.

“I think it’s destiny!” he said of the opener. “I’m Spanish so I’ll get a real buzz, but it’s not about me.

“It’s going to be a real test on the pitch against a team who had another of the best generations in world football.”

Martinez promised to “dive into” Belgian culture, but faces the daunting prospect of learning the country’s three official languages – Dutch, French and German.

“Today I would love to use the language but when I learned there are three official languages, that’s ‘Mission Impossible’!” he said.

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