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HomeSportsRoberto Martinez steps down as Belgium coach

Roberto Martinez steps down as Belgium coach

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez announced he was stepping down after six years in charge after their World Cup campaign ended with a 0-0 draw here on Thursday. “That was always then plan,” said the Spaniard at the post-match press conference which happened after he had hugged the players. “Whenever this project ended, in the group stage or after the final on December 18, I would have stepped down,” said the 49-year-old coach at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

“I look to build things and the time for that here has come to an end,” he said. “In 2018, we were so eager to participate in the World Cup and we finished with a bronze medal (Belgium beat England 2-0 to finish third in Russia). Then, we felt we had to give it another go. It has been an incredible journey.”

Martinez said he understood that a lot of people saw “legacy” as “winning something” but he didn’t. “We have done a lot of things with the national team as we would do at a club. There have been over the years a lot of players who are close to 100 international caps or got more. We have had players who have set real standards. The real fans in Belgium appreciate what the national team has achieved,” he said.

He said Belgium missed out on qualification this time because they played with fear, “listened to the noise outside.” Martinez said he was sure had they qualified the World Cup would have seen the “real Belgium.”

Belgium exited after a 1-0 win against Canada and a 0-2 defeat to Morocco before Thursday’s barren draw against Croatia.

Under Martinez, who coached Swansea City, Wigan Athletic and Everton, Belgium were the first team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. In 2021, they lost to Italy in the quarter-final of the European championships meaning that a generation of talented players ended their reign under a coach without a major title.

His friend and Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said Martinez’s decision left him “surprised.” The Croat coach said Martinez had been a “great professional who guided the team to No. 1 in the FIFA rankings.” Belgium were No. 1 in September 2018 and March 2022.

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