After six years of success in which he led the Belgium team to the highest levels in its history, the Catalan Robert Martínez has decided not to continue in his position (his contract was up) after the elimination from the World Cup in Qatar after drawing with Croatia. Martínez has led one of the most talented generations in the country from the bench and is leaving after winning third place in the 2018 World Cup in Russia and keeping Belgium number 1 in the FIFA ranking for three years. [Check the World Cup rankings].
The poor results in the World Cup in Qatar, in which Belgium was eliminated in the first phase after finishing third in their group, did not influence a decision that a visibly emotional Martínez had made months before. “It is my last game with this team. It is a very emotional moment for me, ”he said at a press conference.
“I am a person who likes to learn from lessons. I've been six years. He was very committed to the project. We ended up with a bronze medal and we had to give this project another chance. I have enjoyed it very much. I have left a great legacy and I am very satisfied with the result”, he added.
With the farewell to Martínez, an era that has lasted a little over six years and in which he has broken numerous records on the Belgian bench comes to an end. On August 3, 2016, he replaced Marc Wilmots and two years later he obtained a historic third place in the World Cup in Russia, also being the highest scoring team.
"It was going to be the end no matter what happened," he acknowledged. "It's the end of a cycle and it has nothing to do with being eliminated in the group stage," he declared. “I made the decision just before the World Cup. I think projects have to be long-term. Since Russia I have had many opportunities to accept offers from clubs and I have always been faithful to the Belgian team. I am not resigning, the end of my contract is coming and that was the plan from the beginning, ”he revealed.
Since his arrival, Belgium has established itself as the number 1 team in the FIFA ranking and only lost five games. During the 2020 Euro Cup, he became the coach who achieved the highest number of wins in the history of Belgium during the same period (46) and in September 2021 he was already the coach with the most wins in the history of the Belgian team after winning to Belarus in the qualifying phase for the 2022 World Cup.
“The disappointment was above all against Morocco. Today we have played against ourselves. We played well in the first half, we wanted to frustrate Croatia and we could have taken advantage of the chances, but we didn't execute well. We have been very strong and we have had good chances, it reminds me of 2018 when we did win. We were enjoying then with a group of players who did feel the colors, which is what we lacked in the first two games, ”he argued.
On September 20, 2021, he achieved a new feat again, since Belgium celebrated three years in a row as the leader of the FIFA ranking. After the victory in his debut at the World Cup in Qatar, Roberto Martínez also became the coach with the most World Cup victories in the history of the Belgian team, surpassing an institution like Guy Thys.