Roberto Martinez has expressed his delight at Belgium’s offensive performance against Estonia and saluted several of his players – particularly Kevin De Bruyne. Doubles apiece from Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku thundered *Les Diables Rouges *to an 8-1 victory – their biggest in 11 years – that sent them two points clear at the top of Group I in European qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
“Chances are that when everything goes smoothly, you lose concentration,” said Martinez. “We didn’t do that, we continued to work hard for each other. Other than the Estonian goal, I’m very happy.
“Defensively, we have to keep improving. Today, there were two or three times when we should have been smarter. It’s therefore a pity that I won’t see the players for almost five months. We’ve only conceded one goal this campaign, but it’s still something we have to work on.
“Offensively, I was very pleased. How can I curb my delight at such good football? I must admit that some of the goals were really pleasing. Lukaku had an excellent game. He’s proven that he’s ready, along with Dries and Eden [Hazard]."
Martinez nonetheless reserved his grandest plaudits for De Bruyne. The 25-year-old, who is often deployed out left for Manchester City, operated just behind Lukaku against Spain in September and up front against the Netherlands last Friday. Against Estonia, the long-range specialist dazzled as a deep central midfielder, spraying quarterback passes and producing a couple of canny set-pieces.
“De Bruyne was outstanding again,” said Martinez. “Kevin is smart and played really well alongside Axel Witsel in midfield. He played the No8 role against Spain, more of a No6 role today, and as a No9 against the Netherlands. Kevin can do it all.”
De Bruyne, who is among the 23 nominees for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 award, has scored 13 goals in 48 internationals, including one in Belgium’s thrilling 2-1 victory over USA in the Round of 16 at Brazil 2014.
Only Brazil (20), Germany (18), Italy (18), Argentina (16), Mexico (15), England (14), France (14) and Spain (14) have participated in more World Cups than Belgium (12). Their best performance came in 1986, when Jean-Marie Pfaff, Eric Gerets, Jan Ceulemans, Enzo Scifo and Co edged Soviet Union 4-3 after extra time in the Round of 16 in one of the competition’s greatest-ever matches. Les Diables Rouges then eliminated Spain on penalties before losing to a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina in the semi-finals.