Roberto Martinez is now the manager that got Belgium to third place in the World Cup for the first time. Martinez has always focused on the team as a whole and Saturday was no different, when he was asked to analyse the Russian World Cup. “Our biggest success is that we became a team during this incredibly memorable World Cup”, Martinez said. He spoke just after Belgium beat England 2-0 during the third-place play-off on Saturday.
“As an international manager, you never feel you have the players long enough to achieve that feeling of being a team. But we did. No-one has questioned the player’s futures during this World Cup, people are only talking about their contribution to the team. We beat Brazil. We were in the semi-finals. We bounced back against Japan. We beat the Belgian goal record and many of our players managed to score. All this shows just how strong the team is. They played football neutral spectators could appreciate. I therefore consider it a privilege to have shared this unique moment with this team”.
Tuesday’s defeat against France affected everyone. The Red Devils had seemed unstoppable after the great win against Brazil. The goal from Umtiti’s corner changed all that. “We really wanted to win the tournament, especially after qualifying against Brazil. But these players will go down in Belgian history and the most important thing is that we remember all this. Above all we should remember how we got there, through good football and tactical flexibility”, Martinez said.
Romelu Lukaku failed to perform like he had at the start of the tournament, in both the semi-final against France and Saturday’s match against England. He scored four goals in the first two matches. He remained fairly quiet on the goal-scoring front after that. “Rom didn’t come here to be the highest scorer, he came to help the team and that’s what he did. He had a fantastic tournament. He’s the perfect number nine in my eyes”.
Two Devils are up for individual awards at the end of this World Cup: Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois. They are up for Best Player and Best Goalkeeper respectively. Traditionally, finalists stand a better chance of winning these awards. But in 2010, Best Player went to Diego Forlan, who came third with Uruguay.
Hazard is up against French player Kylian Mbappé and Croatian player Luka Modric. Courtois’ main rival is French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, but he is also up against Croatian Danijel Subasic. Hazard could win the award based on performance. “The awards also depend on the team’s success. Our guys were strong and played their best tournament ever. They were on top form and I get great satisfaction from that. We certainly have players that are in with a chance of winning these awards”.