Monday 17 December 2018

Belgium ‘as ready as we can be’ for Brazil showdown – Martinez

The Red Devils are looking to topple the five-time winners to reach the semi-finals in Russia.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez is preparing for the challenge of Brazil (Adam Davy/PA)
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez is preparing for the challenge of Brazil (Adam Davy/PA)

By Andy Hampson, Press Association Sport

Roberto Martinez believes his Belgium team are ready for the challenge of Brazil and says there is “something special” about his squad.

Belgium face the five-times world champions for a place in the World Cup semi-finals in Kazan on Friday.

Martinez feels his side, despite being stacked with individual talent, cannot be regarded as favourites because of their inexperience but he is convinced they can flourish.

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the stars of the Belgium side (AP)

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the former Everton manager said: “The two sides are very similar in terms of qualities. The difference is we haven’t won a World Cup – simple as that.

“When you go into a tournament if you don’t have that know-how of winning one you can’t have an advantage on the opponent.

“We shouldn’t play Brazil, we shouldn’t be in awe of the opportunity we have. We need to enjoy our game, be ourselves. When we do that our talent shows.

“There is something special in this squad, no doubt about it. The signs are positive and of a real desire to be on the football pitch.

“We can’t wait. I feel we are as ready as we can be. Over the last two years we have been working towards this moment.”

Belgium claimed their place in the quarter-finals by recovering from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in their last-16 tie with three goals in the last 21 minutes.

Martinez said: “Against Japan we showed a mentality that not many international squads can.”

Key to that victory were goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli.

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The introduction of Fellaini helped change the game against Japan (AP)

Martinez said: “The biggest strength in the squad is we have different ways of attacking and different ways of using our players and that is something that is important.

“The substitutions against Japan were down to a mentality of the players being ready to make an impact. If we want to be successful tomorrow we will need the same approach.”

Martinez, who led Wigan to FA Cup glory in 2013, has recently been linked with the Spain national job but he insists his full focus is on the job at hand.

The Spaniard said: “I understand the question but I think now the only thing that matters is the quarter-finals of the World Cup.”

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Lukaku will be looking for more goals against Brazil (AP)

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, who has scored four goals in the tournament, also feels Brazil are the favourites.

Asked if their opponents had any weaknesses, the Manchester United forward said: “Weaknesses? Brazil? Not really.

“But we always have to play with pressure, even when the underdogs. Tomorrow we have to savour the occasion, try to win and continue in the World Cup.”

Press Association

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