Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez refused to comment on his future after the country’s Euro 2020 elimination at the hands of Italy, insisting the situation is “too raw”.
Italy booked their spot in the semi-finals against Spain after overcoming Martinez’s Belgium 2-1 in Munich on Friday.
Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Insigne put Italy two goals ahead by the 44th minute, but Belgium pulled one back before the interval courtesy of a Romelu Lukaku penalty.
Despite going close, Belgium – one of the pre-tournament favourites – were unable to find an equaliser against red-hot Italy as the Red Devils lost in the quarter-finals of the European Championship like they did in 2016.
Attention swiftly turned to Martinez, who is contracted through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but has been linked with a return to club management.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) July 2, 2021
“Well, obviously, this is a moment that is very, very difficult to speak anything else than the defeat and that we are out of the Euros,” Martinez said. “As I say, at the moment, it’s still too raw. And I do not want to say anything that it could be [seen as] emotional.
“At the moment, all I want to do is look back into this tournament and I would say that the players have done nothing wrong. It is the opposite.
“They did everything they could to get us as far as we can [at Euro 2020]. And now is the time to analyse and to assess. But, at the moment, the feelings of disappointment and sadness, unfortunately, is what is in my head now.”
Belgium have faced Italy more times at major international tournaments (World Cup and Euros) without winning than any other side (five).
No Belgium player has scored more goals than Lukaku at either the European Championship (six) or the World Cup (five, level with Marc Wilmots).
Lukaku has scored 24 goals in his last 23 appearances for Belgium, including 22 in his last 19 competitive internationals.
5 & 6 – Romelu Lukaku’s penalty means that no Belgian player has scored more goals than him at either the European Championships (six) or the World Cup (five, level with Marc Wilmots). Imperious. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/T8dyTGf0rq
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 2, 2021
“The feelings are what you can imagine, really – sadness and disappointment – because I do not think these players deserve to be out of this tournament,” said Martinez. “They have done an incredible job to be prepared to be ready to go step-by-step every day, from the beginning of the tournament. And unfortunately, today [Friday], we faced a very good side [Italy]. I thought it was two very good teams in this knockout phase. And, unfortunately, the margins did not go in our favour.”
Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne played despite carrying an ankle knock, though captain Eden Hazard watched from the stands due to a hamstring injury.
“The situation with Axel [Witsel] and Kevin [De Bruyne] and Eden [Hazard] going into the tournament, I think we managed it very, very well and you could see the attitude of those players,” Martinez added. “They started to grow into the tournament and they have been a real bonus. They really helped us from the moment that they could be on the pitch.
“Obviously, injuries happen and it is unfortunate that Eden could not be on the pitch with us [against Italy]. But it was exemplary to see Kevin De Bruyne getting through whatever he would, to get 90 minutes with his national team and showing that he was ready to help the group.
“So, I think, for every ‘Red Devil’ fan, there is a real pride and understanding that these players did everything they could to try to get what we wanted to get. And unfortunately today, we faced a very good team [Italy] and, with two good teams, the small margins went for them. And that is a small difference and that happens in football.”
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