Belgium carry added pressure into their matches not only because of their top ranking but also due to their will to win all their encounters, coach Roberto Martinez said on Saturday ahead of their last-16 Euro 2020 showdown against holders Portugal.
Martinez said this was because the quality of players at their disposal – long hailed as the country’s golden generation -– who have ensured more than 1 000 days on the top of the Fifa rankings but have yet to win a major tournament.
“The players that we have, also have that sort of standard and expectation at club level,” Martinez told a news conference.
“This is not a national team where you can just turn up and see how the result goes. I think we’ve made it very clear we want to be a winning team, we want to be a consistent group of players committed to the national team and that’s why we have been able to reach the No 1 spot in the Fifa rankings.
“But obviously that counts for nothing tomorrow, it’s tournament football,” he added as Belgium prepared for the game in Seville.
“Now we are taking on a team who were third in their group but who, as it happens, turns out to be the European champions and the Nations League champions. It is game that probably should have happened a little further down the line in the tournament.”
Belgium last played such an important tie three years ago when they were beaten by France in the World Cup semifinals.
“Since then, we’ve worked on increasing the size of our squad and bring in younger players, who can add competition to the squad and I feel we have achieved that. That’s probably been the strength of the last three years,” Martinez said.
“But also, as you can imagine, being together for an extra three years makes you wiser, more synchronised, makes you more experienced and I think those are all great benefits for any football team, especially international football where you cannot work with the players every day.”