Martinez steps down as Belgium manager

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has announced he is stepping down from his role on the back of a woeful group-stage exit at the World Cup.

Martinez announced his contract would not be renewed after Belgium’s 0-0 draw with Croatia confirmed their early elimination, but said he had “not resigned.”

In a statement, the Belgian FA thanked Martinez for his six years of service but said the country had “failed and let down” the people of Belgium with their performances in Qatar.

Martinez had previously guided Belgium to their best ever World Cup, a third-placed finish at Russia in 2018. They ended the tournament as top scorers with what has been considered a ‘golden generation’ for the country including Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard in their prime.

However, they failed to build on that success and were knocked out of Euro 2020 in the quarter-finals by Italy.

They arrived in Qatar second in the FIFA rankings but a shock defeat to Morocco and a goalless draw against Croatia saw them eliminated in the group stages for the first time since 1998, having scored just one goal.

That defeat to Morocco, which remains one of the shocks of this World Cup, was further marred by riots in Brussels and Antwerp which forced police to seal off parts of the cities.

Reports of infighting also dogged them in Qatar, with De Bruyne involved in a heated on-field exchange with Jan Vertonghen before telling reporters the team was “too old” to challenge for the tournament.

Vertonghen later made headlines himself when he sarcastically used the same criticism to explain why Belgium’s attacking players – including De Bruyne – had performed poorly in front of goal during the tournament.

Reflecting on his tenure, Martinez looked back on the positives but said he “had to accept” his time as manager was over. –Skysports

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