YOUR FINALS GUIDE: GROUP G MART’S ON MARCH
Inspired Roberto is ready to give it some Welly!
ROBERTO MARTINEZ has moved to Waterloo in Belgium – so he is ready for a World Cup battle.
After 23 years living in Britain, Belgium’s manager has now based himself in a town famous for an epic confrontation. Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon in 1815 was a famous victory for an Englishman.
And Martinez has to make sure he does not come off second best to another Englishman – Gareth Southgate – when they meet in the final World Cup group game in Russia.
Martinez, 44, moved to this country in 1995 and played for Wigan, Motherwell, Walsall, Swansea and Chester.
He then went on to manage Swansea, Wigan and Everton before taking charge of what he admits is “Belgium’s golden generation”.
So much so that he has been able to leave Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke and Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan of his World Cup 23.
His squad is packed with England-based Premier League talent. But the Spanish boss of Belgium said: “As the manager of the national side, I felt it was important I moved to Belgium. “I also have to keep a close eye on the Pro League players who are based there.”
Despite being packed with Premier League players, Martinez insists Belgium are all about the team ethic – led by their biggest superstar, captain Eden Hazard.
Martinez said: “There is a real togetherness and shared responsibility and Eden, as the captain, has been leading that.
“He is trying to understand the expectation that is on the shoulders of these players but he wants to enjoy the opportunity and encourage the feelings that the fans have.
“The way that we work as a team is always brave and he is always the one who wants the ball. He is a leader by action.
“It has been great to see him over the last two years and the maturity that has come.
“He has old-fashioned values. You won’t see him with the latest haircut. But he has a special ability that people want to pay to watch.
“So too has Kevin De Bruyne. He has great vision and that ability to deliver the right weight of pass.
“But we won’t rely on just one or two players. You can’t think it is about individuals – it’s about the team.
“In modern football, you have to be outstanding at something but you still have to be part of the team.”
Belgium won nine of their 10 qualifying matches and drew the other.
And Martinez says of having to face England, Tunisia and Panama: “There is no such thing as a good draw or a bad one.
“It’s about making it a good draw. We had a good record in getting qualified but now we have to get down to the real detail.”