Rumors from the past few days became fact as Portugal unveiled Roberto Martinez as its new head coach. Martinez takes over from Fernando Santos, who left the position after Portugal’s World Cup exit in the quarterfinals.
The next generation
The high point in Portugal’s World Cup came in a dominant 6-1 win over Switzerland in the Round of 16. Youngsters Goncalo Ramos and Joao Felix ran rampant. The game stood as a beacon of possibility for the future of the Portuguese team.
Though Cristiano Ronaldo remained coy on his future with the international team, he accepted a change in pace at the club level with his move to Al Nassr. Assuming we won’t see a 41 year-old Ronaldo playing at the next World Cup, now is the time to mold the next generation of Portuguese stars.
Overseeing that next generation of talent is Roberto Martinez, most recently known for his stint in a near identical situation with Belgium.
The so-called “Golden Generation” of Belgian talent was tipped to achieve tournament glory. Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Courtois and more had hopes to bring Belgium’s first major trophy, it was only a matter of time.
After six years of Martinez’s guidance, Belgium won nothing. The highest they climbed was a third-place finish in the 2018 World Cup. The other two tournaments were disappointments, to say the least. Belgium capitulated against Italy in the quarterfinals at Euro 2020. Then, at Qatar 2022, the Red Devils shockingly did not make it out of a group. Although, that group did consist of World Cup semifinalists Morocco and Croatia.
Martinez points to an extended period when Belgium were the top-ranked team by FIFA. Critics point to the empty trophy cabinet.
Roberto Martinez is not the solution to Portugal desires
As Martinez begins his role as the steward of a talented and exciting group of players, it is in the cards to squander another golden generation at a nation with little international success. His time with Belgium ended with a fizzle, and a group stage exit is far below the standard for a side as talented as Belgium.
Portugal does not have the pressure of delivering a first title. It won the European Championship in 2016 before the Nations League in 2019. However, Portugal is arguably the most elite soccer nation without a World Cup, rivaling a side like the Netherlands for that unwanted crown.
Surely, The Portuguese hierarchy expects Martinez to deliver the famous gold trophy during his tenure come 2026. If his track record is anything to go by, it’s unlikely.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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