Future bright for Belgium despite failure to win trophy – Martinez

Roberto Martinez has tipped Belgium for a bright future despite loss to France in World Cup semis on Tuesday. Net photo.

Belgium’s future is bright despite a 1-0 World Cup semi-final defeat by France and the issue of an aging squad, says manager Roberto Martinez.

The Red Devils’ ‘golden generation’ face the losers of England’s game with Croatia in Saturday’s third-fourth play-off before going home.

Seven of Belgium’s 23-man squad are in their 30s.

“Belgian football has got a wealth of young talent coming through,” said Martinez.

Belgium, who have never won a major tournament, impressed in Russia - knocking out Brazil in the quarter-finals - but fell short against a solid French side.

“My disappointment is huge,” said former Wigan and Everton boss Martinez.

“It wasn’t about having a good tournament and coming ‘top four’ - it was about trying to win it. It’s a sad dressing room now. We could easily have come to this stage and frozen. France are used to these big games but we coped with that side really well.”

Martinez - whose side were unbeaten in 24 games until this defeat - extended his contract in May for another two years.

“It’s too early to make any assessment for the tournament,” he said. “We need to focus on the final game and fight for third place. Then we’ll regroup.

“As it happens in any big tournament, we need to look at the younger generation and try to become stronger from tournament to tournament. And in my role I’ve got the eyes into Euro 2020 so it’s not the right moment to make an assessment just yet.”

Samuel Umtiti’s header was the only goal at the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg.

Martinez added: “The difference between defeat and winning was down to one dead-ball situation. That’s how close the game was. I’m proud of my players. We gave everything we have got. You have to congratulate France and wish them well for the final.”

‘We can climb mountains and that is what we have done’

France manager Didier Deschamps says it is time to write a “new, beautiful page” as they reached their third final in six World Cups.

Deschamps captained Les Bleus to their only World Cup win - in their home tournament in 1998.

“I never mention my own history,” he said. “They know it. Some of them were not born but they have seen the pictures. The story is different now, I can’t make comparisons and can’t talk to them about players from 10 or 20 years ago.

“Now is the time to make a new, beautiful page. One must live in their times, we can’t look back and see what is in the rear-view mirror.”

Deschamps was in charge two years ago when France were beaten finalists by Portugal in Euro 2016, another home tournament.

“I was there two years ago and it was so painful that we want to taste the victory now. We have to appreciate it and we are going to share this happiness with our families. We are going to do everything to be on the right side and make sure what happened two years ago does not happen again.

“With our state of mind we can climb mountains and that is what we have done.”

 

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