Roberto Martínez has announced his resignation as Belgium head coach following their World Cup group stage exit. Belgium’s failure to beat Croatia in their final Group F match saw Martínez confirm his departure after more than six years in charge.
Martínez insisted he was proud of his legacy despite failing to achieve with the so-called golden generation, with Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne among the players who may never return to this stage.
Romelu Lukaku missed a number of chances to clinch victory and a place in the last 16, including a huge opportunity in second-half stoppage time. Martínez led Belgium to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, where they were defeated by the eventual winners, France. Despite a winning start against Canada in Qatar, a shock loss to Morocco and a goalless draw against Croatia led to Belgium’s humiliating exit.
Martínez hugged his players after the final whistle in Doha. “It was my last game with the national team and it’s emotional as you can imagine,” he said. “It was going to be the end whether we were world champions or out of the group stage. It has nothing to do with being eliminated at this stage. This is the time for me to accept that this day is the last fight.”
Asked to clarify when he made the decision, Martínez said: “I made the decision right before the World Cup. I always work for the long term. I think the long-term projects must be long-term and they must be set in advance. As you can imagine since 2018 I have had many opportunities to leave and take jobs at club level. I’ve always wanted to be loyal, I’ve always wanted to finish the job and now I’m not resigning, this is the end of my contract. This has always been the plan.”
Martínez said the defeat against Morocco was behind their downfall. “When you get to the World Cup, you have to play three games and we only played one,” he said. “The first two games we were scared, we weren’t the team we are, we listened to the noise on the outside and we felt the responsibility.
“We played thinking we could lose the game and we could be out and that’s what cost us going forward. If we had gone through, I think we would have seen the real Belgium and we could have been very competitive.