Roberto Martinez on Belgium: 'A winning team is not just made by talent'
- The former Everton and Wigan Athletic manager takes over for the ousted Marc Wilmots.
BRUSSELS (AP) — Tasked with getting Belgium's golden generation to live up to its billing, Roberto Martinez said his biggest challenge as the new coach is to instill a winning mentality and make a young squad comfortable in the role as favorite.
"We have the talent," Martinez said at his official presentation on Thursday. "But in the same way, a winning team is not just made by talent."
The 43-year-old former Everton manager was hired as coach of the world's second-ranked team on a two-year deal Wednesday. Martinez, in his first international job, replaces Marc Wilmots, who was fired after Belgium's failure to get beyond the quarterfinals at the European Championship.
A team containing stars like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku is falling short of expectations at the highest stage, and Martinez said he can see why.
"The hardest thing is to win when you are expected to win," he said.
"You have to feel the direction of developing a winning mentality ... feeling at ease of carrying the expectations of being a golden generation."
Speaking in Brussels, where he plans to bring his family and set up home, Martinez promised an attacking brand of football, saying he would look to mold a team "always wanting to be on the ball, control the ball, be on the attack."
However, Martinez, who has managed teams with poor defensive records in the English Premier League, said: "You need to be able to defend."
Martinez was fired by Everton in May after nearly three years in charge. He previously managed Swansea and Wigan, which he guided to a shock FA Cup title in 2013 — along with relegation from the Premier League the same year.
The move to Belgium reunites Martinez with two national-team players at Everton—Lukaku and winger Kevin Mirallas—and former Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini, who is now at Manchester United.
Belgians are hoping that Martinez, the first Spaniard to ever coach the national side, will help Lukaku find the same touch in front of goal that he has regularly displayed at Everton.
"He is one of the biggest talents in world football. But we have to remember he is 23," said Martinez.
As fate would have it, Martinez's first game in charge will be a friendly against Spain on Sept. 1.
Martinez, who wants to meet all the Belgian players in advance and has not decided who should be captain, said the match feels like "destiny."
"It's quite a nice touch," he said. "It's going to be a real test on the pitch."
Belgium's first World Cup qualifying match is against Cyprus in Nicosia on Sept. 6. Bosnia, Estonia, Gibraltar and Greece are also in Group H.