Roberto Martínez believes Belgian have ‘world at their feet’

Former Everton manager eager to start new job in charge of Belgium’s ‘golden generation’

Roberto Martínez said he feels that Belgium have "the world at their feet" as he takes charge of the national team.

The former Everton, Swansea City and Wigan manager was appointed on Wednesday to lead the Euro 2016 quarter-finalists in their qualifying campaign for the World Cup in Russia in two years’ time.

“I felt this was a great opportunity, a great challenge, and I’m thankful to the Belgian FA,” he said. “I’ve been working with Belgian players and I’ve been intrigued by Belgian football, the talent of the Belgium players is there to be seen.

‘Special journey’

“I’m humbled, proud, honoured to be the head coach of Belgium as a country. It will be a special journey together, to support these players that have got the world at their feet.”

One of those players he has previously worked with is the Everton striker Romelu Lukaku who, along with his team-mate for club and country Kevin Mirallas, saw his form drop off badly towards the end of Martínez' reign.

Martínez’ stated aim to “turn Romelu Lukaku into a world-class striker” immediately raised some eyebrows, but despite players not fulfilling their potential under him at club level he believes his approach is a good fit for Belgium.

“My style is very clear and it goes along with this Belgian team,” he said. “We will always work to be on the ball and be an attacking team but you have to be able to defend. We want to play attractive football but we have to win.”

Belgium also reaching the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup.

Martínez is aware of the country’s desire to go even further on the big stage but warned against over-burdening players with expectations.

“Sometimes there seemed too much pressure, carrying the hopes of the country, and we’re all responsible for that,” he said. “We can’t be fearful of what the outside world says about Belgium.

‘Winning mentality’

“What’s realistic is to fulfil their potential. We have the talent but it’s not just about talent, you need to build a winning mentality and you need to play without too much expectation in a ‘golden generation’.

“We haven’t won the World Cup, we haven’t won the European Championship, and we have to fight for that.”

September’s friendly against his native Spain gives Martínez a fitting start to his reign, before a first competitive outing against Cyprus five days later.

“I think it’s destiny,” he said of the opener. “I’m Spanish so I’ll get a real buzz, but it’s not about me. It’s going to be a real test on the pitch against a team who had another of the best generations in world football.”