Football Football

Martinez prepares for ‘special journey’ with Belgium

Former Everton manager Roberto Martinez has been appointed new Belgium coach. PHOTO/SKY
Former Everton manager Roberto Martinez has been appointed new Belgium coach. PHOTO/SKY

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Aug 4- Roberto Martinez is ready to embark on a “special journey” after being appointed as the new coach of Belgium.

The 43-year-old Spaniard has replaced Marc Wilmots and will 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,” said the former Everton, Wigan and Swansea boss.

“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, which finished on May 12 when he was sacked.

Despite some 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. “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 also reached the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup and Martinez is aware of the country’s desire to go even further on the big stage, but he has 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.”

The September 1 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.”

By Sky Sports