Belfast Telegraph

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez responds to links to Spain job

 

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Roberto Martinez has insisted he is fully focused on Belgium's World Cup quarter-final against Brazil, despite rumours linking him with the Spain national job.

Belgium face the five-time world champions for a place in the last-four in Russia today.

Martinez said: "I think now the only thing that matters is the quarter-finals of the World Cup."

Spain are to appoint a new full-time boss after sacking Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament.

Fernando Hierro took over for the duration of the competition, but Spain were knocked out in the last-16 by hosts Russia.

Former Everton and Wigan boss Martinez, a Spaniard, has emerged as a candidate after guiding Belgium to the last-eight, but he is not looking beyond the Brazil clash in Kazan.

He said: "If you look for a game you want to play in the World Cup, it is Brazil. Brazil deserve every adjective you want to find in world football, in terms of excitement, quality and winning mentality. So, the only thing that matters is Brazil and trying to perform as well as we can."

Belgium have some renowned attacking players and Martinez is confident they can make an impact, but he insists his side are firm underdogs.

He said: "The two sides are very similar in terms of qualities. The difference is we haven't won a World Cup. Simple as that. When you go into a tournament and don't have that know-how of winning one you can't have an advantage on the opponent.

"We shouldn't be in awe of the opportunity we have. We need to enjoy our game, be ourselves. When we do that our talent shows."

Striker Romelu Lukaku also feels Brazil are the favourites.

Asked if the Brazilians had any weaknesses, the Manchester United forward said: "Weaknesses? Brazil? Not really.

"But we always have to play with pressure, even when the underdogs."

Brazil coach Tite has confirmed that Real Madrid full-back Marcelo will return to the side to face Belgium today.

Marcelo was forced off early on in Brazil's final group game as they beat Serbia, before the same back problem cost him a place in the team that beat Mexico 2-0.

A soft mattress at the team hotel has been blamed for aggravating the issue but Tite revealed that the 30-year-old will replace Felipe Luis against Belgium.

"I talked to Marcelo and Filipe Luis," said Tite. "Marcelo left (against Serbia) because of a clinical problem and has not been back because of a physical problem, he only had 45 to 60 minutes. Filipe Luis played very well but Marcelo is coming back."

The Brazil coach went on to confirm that Fernandinho will also come into the side.

The Manchester City midfielder has yet to start a game in Russia but will replace Casemiro, who misses out through suspension.

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