Roberto Martinez did not want to be in this position, but Belgium’s head coach entered a losing contest with the England national football team and came out second best. His consolation prize for winning three group games out of three? A round of 16 meeting with Japan, the World Cup 2018’s lowest-ranked team remaining outside of the hosts.
There are worse positions to be in at this stage of the tournament but in a way, this is still an awkward one for Martinez. Having declared that beating England in Kaliningrad was “not a priority”, Belgium did just that, winning Group G and thereby planting themselves in the ‘difficult’ half of the draw – the half Martinez hoped to avoid.
Assuming Belgium can overcome Japan, tournament favourites Brazil are their likely opponents in the quarter-final. Either a solid and effective Uruguay or an ultra-talented France would then await in the last four. If Belgium reach the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in just under a fortnight’s time, their place there will be well deserved. Read more