Belgium manager Roberto Martinez says his players were deserving of their historic third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup following Saturday’s 2-0 victory over England.
A fourth-minute goal from Thomas Meunier and an 82nd minute Eden Hazard strike earned Belgium their best-ever finish at a World Cup, improving on their previous best performance of a fourth-place finish in 1986.
“It’s all about that achievement. I think these players deserve that,” said Martinez after the match.
“What we have seen in this World Cup is that the players did not want to rely on talent anymore, they wanted to rely on working as a team, becoming a group of players that would do anything to achieve results.”
Belgium had only three days to recover from a devastating semifinal loss to neighbours France which ended their dream of winning the nation’s first-ever World Cup.
However, the result against England left defender Vincent Kompany beaming with pride.
“I’m extremely proud with this third place. We have suffered three days, because the defeat against France was difficult,” Kompany said of his side, who will be celebrated on Sunday afternoon in Brussels.
“We showed today that we really wanted to go for that third place. I couldn’t be more proud. It’s the first time in Belgian football history we become third. This is good for Belgium. As a young kid, I looked up to the performance of Belgium on the World Cup in 1986 in Mexico.
“This generation went one step further. We were close to the final. If we had reached the final, we would’ve won I think. But this is also beautiful. It’s a gift for our fans: six wins out of seven matches. Hats off to everyone.”