Everyone remembers their first World Cup
As their introduction to football,” Roberto Martínez says on an intriguing afternoon at Belgium’s training http://www.officialpacershop.com/authentic-11-domantas-sabonis-jersey.html centre in Tubize. We’re just a short drive from Brussels but a long way from Sochi where Belgium, whom Martínez has managed since August 2016, play their first game as one of the tournament favourites against Panama on Monday.
“I remember my first World Cup in 1982, when I was 10, starting a Panini collection with my dad and getting all the stickers and trying to understand as much as I could about the other nations,” Martínez says. “So to be involved in the tournament, as an international manager, means a great deal. But, just like then, football is all about the players. I have a fantastic group and I believe totally in them.”
Martínez is under intense pressure. He leads one of the most talented squads in Russia while his position is debated in Belgium, where the Spaniard has never quite been accepted. Yet his enthusiasm is unstinting, on a day where he gives up 80 minutes to engage so fully with this interview it is hard to think of another World Cup manager who would be as generous.
Some have suggested that, considering the excellence of his squad, anything less than topping a group which includes England and Tunisia and reaching at least the semi-finals should be considered a failure. Martínez is too cute to make any predictions but he exudes a breezy confidence. “Failure is not trying to win,” he says airily before outlining his challenges in more precise detail. “We’re going to be adventurous and brave. We’re going to try and win every game. But the feelings you develop in the three group games are essential.
“We’ve got the talent but, clearly, a country like Germany already has the belief. When you speak with ex-players Derek Wolfe Authentic Jersey from Germany they tell you that when they pulled on the shirt they had no doubt they would win. That psychology Eddie Goldman Authentic Jersey is powerful in knock-out tournaments. We need to show that mentality and I believe we will because our attitude and talent is very good.”
Belgium’s record under Martínez looks impressive. They have played 18 matches, losing only once, and they were the first European country to qualify for the World Cup from an easy group. “We have only lost my first game, the friendly against Spain, and since then the players showed incredible focus. Spain was a very interesting game because Julen Lopetegui took over as their manager at a similar time. That was both our first game in charge. It was similar when he took over Porto and we faced each other in a friendly at Everton.
“Spain are in a very good moment. They’ve got a really good mixture of players that already know what it means to win a major tournament and younger players that have played in this style the last 10 years. From that point we learned a lot tactically and adjusted. We are ready to compete against teams like Spain.”
One of his star players, Kevin De Bruyne, challenged Martínez last November. After Belgium drew with Mexico, De Bruyne said they had been outwitted and, despite the 3-3 scoreline, Martínez had used an excessively defensive 5-3-2 http://www.officialminnesotawild.com/Adidas-Kyle-Quincey-Jersey formation. “Mexico were tactically better,” De Bruyne said. “As long as there is no good tactical system we face difficulties. It’s a pity we have not yet found a solution. We are playing a very defensive system, but our team is filled with many attacking players.”