'We lacked joy in our play' – Belgium coach Martinez rocked by Morocco defeat

By Sports Desk November 27, 2022 580

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez conceded his team "lacked joy" in their play after succumbing to a miserable 2-0 defeat to Morocco on Sunday.

The Red Devils went down to goals from Romain Saiss – adjudged to have got the slightest touch on a dangerous Abdelhamid Sabiri free-kick after 73 minutes – and Zakaria Aboukhlal in stoppage time.

It left Belgium, third-place finishers in 2018, teetering on the brink of an early elimination and knowing they will likely have to get something against Croatia in their final Group F game on Thursday to stand any chance of going through.

Belgium have looked disjointed so far in Qatar and Martinez feels they are perhaps struggling with the thought of a final shot at glory for the nation's 'golden generation'.

He said: "I don't see us enjoying it, we have lacked that joy. It may be due to the weight we are carrying on our shoulders. In the last game, we have to play it to win it. We've played the last two like we have something to lose.

"Now we have something to win. If we beat Croatia, we will qualify. The talent is there and the quality in front of goal is always there."

Martinez claimed to be unaware of an interview given by Kevin De Bruyne in which the Manchester City midfielder suggested this Belgium team are weaker than the 2018 group, but he defended the 31-year-old after another subdued display.

Asked why fans have yet to see the best De Bruyne at the World Cup, Martinez replied: "We haven't seen the best Belgium yet, we haven't been at our best.

"Until the goal, the performance was a step forward from the Canada game, and we have never lost the desire to get results, but the team haven't been themselves, not just Kevin.

"We've played with too much responsibility, we need to find that freedom. Football is a team sport but, if we do that, every individual can find a higher level."

Morocco coach Walid Regragui was delighted with his side's display, although he wants them to finish the job and secure a place in the knockout phase. This result followed a draw against 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia.

"We have four points, that's extraordinary for Morocco," he said. "We played against one of the best teams in the world, with big players. We knew that if we didn't give 100 per cent it's impossible to win, but with these fans, these players, this spirit...

"We are a very difficult team to beat. This is a good win, but we haven't qualified yet. We have four points, but I want more than that. It will be difficult if we get through to the knockout phase but so far we have matched two of the best teams in the world."

Regragui reserved special praise for man of the match Hakim Ziyech.

"He is incredible," he said of the Chelsea winger. "A lot of people talk about him, say he is a crazy guy, he is difficult to manage, he can't help the team. What I see is when you give him love and confidence, he will die for you. That's what I give him. He has my confidence and the confidence of the fans."

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Last modified on Sunday, 27 November 2022 12:31
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