Bel­gium’s skills and at­ti­tude give Martinez cause to be grate­ful

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - WORLD CUP -

BEL­GIUM man­ager Roberto Martinez feels he is “priv­i­leged” to have such a strong squad at his dis­posal and be­lieves his play­ers are ca­pa­ble of any­thing.

The Red Devils’ so-called golden gen­er­a­tion be­gin their World Cup cam­paign to­day against fi­nals debu­tants Panama in Sochi.

Chelsea for­ward Eden Haz­ard, Manch­ester City play­maker Kevin De Bruyne and Manch­ester United striker Romelu Lukaku are among the at­tack­ing op­tions in Martinez’s squad.

Goal­keeper Thibaut Cour­tois and de­fend­ers Vin­cent Kom­pany, Jan Ver­tonghen and Toby Alder­weireld pro­vide strength at the other end of the pitch.

The glit­ter­ing ar­ray of tal­ent has seen Bel­gium in­stalled as one of the tour­na­ment favourites and Spa­niard Martinez hopes he can mould his in­di­vid­ual stars into an ef­fec­tive team unit.

“We’ve said it for a long time now, we’re priv­i­leged to have this sort of group of play­ers, not just with their skills – their skills are es­sen­tial – but I think it’s more their at­ti­tude and the way they are am­bas­sadors for Bel­gian foot­ball,” said Martinez.

“In Bel­gium we’ve got a pop­u­la­tion of 11 mil­lion and to pro­duce these sort of play­ers is not by ac­ci­dent or co­in­ci­dence, it’s a lot of work.

“Now we have got play­ers that are very im­por­tant at club level and what we want to do is bring them to­gether in the na­tional team.

“More im­por­tantly, I want to see them en­joy­ing their foot­ball be­cause when they do that they can do any­thing on the pitch.”

Op­po­nents Panama are the fifth-low­est ranked team in the com­pe­ti­tion and play­ing in a World Cup for the first time.

With Tu­nisia and Eng­land to come later in Group G, Martinez wants to make a win­ning start, but re­mains wary of the threat posed by the new­com­ers.

“I think Panama are one of the sto­ries of the World Cup, that’s why we all en­joy the for­mat of the World Cup, a na­tion that are ar­riv­ing for the first time against the odds,” added the for­mer Ever­ton and Wi­gan boss.

“I think that’s go­ing to be very dan­ger­ous for any team that’s go­ing to be fac­ing Panama in this tour­na­ment be­cause they’ve got that in­cred­i­ble be­lief and com­pet­i­tive na­ture that they can achieve a dream.”

ROBERTO MARTINEZ: His Bel­gium side have been in­stalled as one of the World Cup favourites.

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