Roberto Martinez knows expecations are always high for his Belgium side, and he was proud to tick another important box Saturday as the Red Devils secured qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
While Belgium did not repeat their 2018 feat of being the first European side to qualify, they will take their place alongside Denmark, France and Germany in Qatar after defeating Estonia 3-1.
Winners of all but two of their qualifiers since Martinez took charge in 2016, Belgium have plenty of reason to be proud.
“We’re in a situation where we always have to win everything,” Martinez told reporters. “That is what the outside world expects and it creates extra pressure. I am very happy that our players are handling this well. They always go for it.
“Every player is always in a special situation at his club, but with the national team all noses are in the same direction. That’s a good mindset. It’s not as obvious as it seems.
“We have now played 27 qualifiers under my reign. We won 25 of those. We should be happy about that. That is why we should really celebrate this qualification. That is not so normal.”
Belgium played their penultimate 2022 qualifier without star Romelu Lukaku, who continues to recover from an ankle injury.
In his absence, Christian Benteke, Yannick Carrasco and Thorgan Hazard found the net in Brussels.
Martinez said goalkeeper Thibault Coutois may not travel to Cardiff for Tuesday’s Group E finale against Wales, but otherwise Belgium will put forth a representative side as their opponents try to lock up second place in the group.
“We have to try to win there, play the game fairly,” Martinez said. “The atmosphere will be very hostile as Wales want to qualify for the play-offs. I will therefore go there with the strongest possible core.
“Only Courtois may not go to Wales, he is not completely fit and has not trained much. For the rest, no yellow cards or injuries, so everyone is coming along.”
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