logo
POST TIME: 4 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Belgium boss eager to face Brazil
AFP

Belgium boss eager to face Brazil

Belgium's defender Vincent Kompany (2ndR) reacts as Japan's goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima (C-L) blocks a header by Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku (C-R) during the World Cup football match at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on Monday. AFP Photo

AFP, ROSTOV-ON-DON: Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said his side should accept they will be the underdogs in their World Cup quarter-final against star-studded Brazil on Friday.

Belgium booked a last eight berth to face the Selecao with a last-gasp 3-2 win over Japan in Rostov-on-Don on Monday.

.Martinez's side will face Brazil in Kazan and he says Belgium must embrace their role as underdogs who have nothing to lose.

“When you play against Brazil, you need to accept they are the best team in the competition, you need to accept your role,” said Martinez after beating the Japanese in the last 16.

“They have players who can decide the game on their own like (Philippe) Coutinho and Neymar.

“When we went 2-0 down (against Japan) there was the psychological feeling of 'ok, we have nothing to lose', which freed us up.

“That's like how it will be against Brazil, except we can feel like that from the first second. “This is the sort of game you dream about as a little boy and we can enjoy it from the first second.”

Martinez said he was deeply proud after his team hit back from 2-0 down to claim a place in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Substitute Nacer Chadli slotted home in the fourth minute of injury time to complete a memorable comeback and seal a 3-2 win in the last-16 match in Rostov-on-Don.

Belgium were stunned after Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui gave Japan a two-goal advantage early in the second half.

But Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini pulled them level and Chadli's winner means they will play Brazil in the last eight.

“That was a test for the team and its character," said Martinez after Belgium become the first team in 48 years to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a World Cup knockout match.

“We survived it, we have gone through and that is the most important thing.”

“No negatives today, it was about getting through,” Martinez added. "It is a day to be very proud of these players. Keep believing in Belgium.

“In the World Cup you want to be perfect but it's about getting through, it's about winning.

“I couldn't be prouder of them and everyone in Belgium needs to be proud of these players.”

Martinez, the former Everton manager, also said Japan deserved credit for presenting his team with such a tough test. “Let's congratulate Japan, they played the perfect game. They were clinical on the counter and so solid,” said the Belgium boss.

“It was a test of character and you see the reaction of our subs coming on to win the game. It tells you everything about this group of players.

“Physically, we finished the game really strong, the third goal was almost a powerful counter attack which saw us cover the pitch in six seconds.”

The Spaniard denied under-estimating Japan after his side went 2-0 down early in the second-half.

“We didn't underestimate them, we gave the players a lot of details about what Japan could do,” said Martinez.

“Their first goal was a fantastic counter attack and the second one was a wonder strike from them down to brilliance.

“Mentally we had to be very strong, I felt the players always had the belief, but we never underestimated Japan.”

Martinez singled out Romelu Lukaku for praise in the build-up to the winning goal after the Manchester United striker let the ball roll to the unmarked Chaldi to score, rather than claim the glory for himself as he was marked.

“Lukaku was aware and showed great selflessness to allow Nacer to score,” beamed Martinez.