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Excited Martinez wary of Brazil’s World Cup pedigree

Kazan (Russia) (AFP) – Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said Thursday he was excited by the challenge of facing the most famous yellow shirts in football but underlined the gulf in World Cup pedigree between the two sides.

Brazil and Belgium meet in a quarter-final in Kazan on Friday where Brazil coach Tite expects “a great game of football”.

But when it comes to comparing achievements, Brazil are way out in front — a fact Martinez was quick to underline as he laid bare how his players could shock the five-time World Cup winners. 

“The two sides are very similar in terms of the qualities we have,” said Martinez. “The difference is, we haven’t won a World Cup. It’s as simple as that.

“They know how to win World Cups, they’ve done it more than any other nation so they have that psychological barrier out of the way.

“When we see the colour yellow, we’re very proud. We’re going to be very excited to see Brazil in front of us.

“Of course we want to win and we’re going to try to win. The most important aspect tomorrow is our chance to play in the quarter-final.

“We want to enjoy our game.”

Tipped as dark horses for the title leading up to the tournament, Belgium kept excitement brimming over during a superb group phase that reaped nine goals for only two conceded.

– Character-building –

Yet Belgium’s hopes were only kept afloat when late substitutions by Martinez helped the Red Devils fight back from a two-goal deficit to Japan and clinch their place in the quarter-finals with a last-gasp 3-2 win.

Martinez believes that sort of character and spirit augurs well for Belgium’s chances.

And while Brazil boast huge strength in depth, Martinez, too, has options from the bench.

“When you’re 2-0 down against Japan, there’s nothing tougher than that,” he said.

“There is something special in this squad. There’s no doubt about it.

“We can’t wait to be there. I feel we’re as ready as we’ll ever be.”

He added: “When you’re in a competition like the World Cup you can’t rely just on 11 players.

“The biggest strength is that we have different ways of attacking and ways of using all our players.

“And it’s important the players are mentally ready to do that, that they’re ready to make an impact.”

Martinez stressed the threat posed by Brazil star Neymar after he hit Brazil’s opener against Mexico and, after an impressive second-half performanace marred by play-acting, set up Roberto Firmino for Brazil’s second at the death.

“We’ll have to be very, very aware to try and keep him quiet,” said Martinez. 

After seeing their own star man Romelu Lukaku hit four goals in his first two games, Belgium will hope the Manchester United striker can find his scoring boots after failing to hit the net against Japan, although his sublime dummy set up Nacer Chadli’s late winner.

Despite Neymar’s shenanigans, and a Brazil defence that has conceded just once in four games, Lukaku cannot wait to play against Neymar.

“In the future he will be the best player in the world, so I’m very happy to be playing against him,” said Lukaku.

“We know it won’t be easy, but we know we have the quality to make the difference.”

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