Roberto Martinez yet again chose excellent tactics for Belgium’s World Cup Quarter-final victory over Brazil on Friday evening. Belgium won 2-1 and has now reached the Semi-finals.
To counter the solid Brazilian mid-field and its ability to pass the ball to the strikers, Roberto Martinez chose a 4-3-3 formation (instead of the usual 3-4-3). Kevin De Bruyne strengthened the attack and Maroune Fellani and Nacer Chadli were in the starting 11.
The Brazilians were not really present during the first half. They were 2-0 down at half-time. Martinez doesn’t want to take all the credit for himself though. “The players executed the plan perfectly. Right up until the last minute. That’s what did it”, he said during a press conference after the match.
“When you play against Brazil, you have to try and gain a tactical advantage. There is a psychological barrier. You’re going up against the famous yellow and green jersey and five World Cups…. This means they have a lot of experience and know what they have to do”, says Roberto Martinez.
“As well as all that, you’re playing a team that also wants to get possession of the ball, so we needed another man mid-field. You have to be brave to change tactics in the middle of a World Cup, but it was a gamble the players believed in. It wasn’t the tactics but the execution that made the difference today. I’m happy to say my players believed in the risk we took. It was obvious we needed to be tight, to neutralise the Neymar threat posed. Coutinho, Paulinho’s movements, Marcelo and Willian moving down the side of the pitch. We wanted to give them something to worry about as well. Hazard and Romelu provided that. We were brave”.
“I gave the team a difficult task, and they performed it perfectly. They really believed we could beat Brazil. The key today was mental strength. I’m the proudest man on the planet right now, because I gave the players difficult tactics to work with. The fact they believed in them right up until the end is incredible. Today, we needed a combination of tactics and performance”, says Roberto Martinez.
After Renato Augusto’s goal, the Brazilians nearly equalised several times and Thibault Courtois had to save quite a few on-target shots. “We could still have lost it all during the last five minutes, although we wouldn’t have deserved that. Brazil were good, but we stayed calm after they scored because the player believed. I saw them in the tunnel just before the match. The spark in their eyes said it all”.
The party to celebrate Belgium’s second World Cup semi-final is still going on. “I hope people realise how special this generation of footballers are. They are ambassadors for Belgian football and they should be very proud of themselves”, says Martinez.