Roberto Martinez hails Belgium as ‘one of world’s best’

Brussels (AFP) – Roberto Martinez expressed his delight on Thursday after being named as the new head coach of the Belgium national team.

The Spaniard was chosen as the successor to Marc Wilmots on Wednesday, after the former Belgium midfielder was sacked following the side’s 3-1 defeat to Wales in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

That loss made it back-to-back last-eight exits in major tournaments for the Red Devils, after bowing out in extra-time to Argentina in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Martinez, 43, was himself dismissed by Everton at the back end of the last Premier League season, after a shocking run of results, especially at home, that culminated in an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United.

Belgium are second in the world rankings behind only Argentina, and their current crop of players, which includes the likes of Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, have been dubbed the ‘Golden Generation’.

Martinez accepts that with that calibre of squad comes high expectations.

“There is pressure, the expectation of the public,” he said.

“Belgium will be favourites for most of their games, and it will be up to me to handle that.

“Everyone respects Belgium as one of the best nations in the world. A golden generation? We need to work hard for it to be the case.”

Martinez beat former Roma coach Rudi Garcia and Italian World Cup winner Marcello Lippi to the role, although Bart Verhaeghe, the sports director of the Belgian federation, accepted that they did have “budgetary restrictions”.

Former Swansea City manager Martinez led Wigan Athletic for four Premier League seasons, winning the FA Cup in 2013 when the Latics were relegated to the second-tier Championship.

He then took over at Goodison Park, where he led Everton to a fifth-place finish with their highest points tally in the Premier League era in his first term in charge.

As the Belgium head coach he will be reunited with former Toffees players Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas.

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