Roberto Martinez is clear: "We are better with Eden, he will start against Canada"

It is almost an unofficial rule: before the first match at a major tournament, the captain accompanies the national coach at the press conference. At the Red Devils, however, it was not Eden Hazard, but Jan Vertonghen who took place behind the microphone. A colleague asked whether we should deduce anything from it – it was a struggle to get the floor in the auditorium filled with about a hundred journalists. Roberto Martinez shook his head: “No, because Eden will start the match. There are a lot of interview requests for Eden, we have to divide the work. That may be the price you pay as a Real player. The same goes for Thibaut Courtois and it was also the case for Thomas Vermaelen at Barcelona back in the day.”

READ ALSO. Antwerp Canadian Tomasz Radzinski estimates Canada’s chances: “They are fast at the back”

“We are better with Eden in the dressing room,” Martinez had said a few minutes earlier. “He’s been struggling for the last two years at Real Madrid, but now he’s with the national team, and that’s a different story. Eden has experience and talent, he has not suddenly lost that, but he has to compete.” It remains to be seen who will be in the pocket next to Hazard. If national coach Kevin De Bruyne doesn’t pull back one row, it looks like Premier League sensation Leandro Trossard will start on the bench. In defense, Martinez has to choose who completes the trio with Alderweireld and Vertonghen. Who will be Witsel’s sparring partner in midfield? And will Batshuayi keep his place at the expense of Openda?

It has often been about Hazard in recent months. At no point did Martinez drop his number ten, even when there was a lot of headwind. It would be good for all parties if Hazard now ‘deliver’.


Much respect from Canadians

Who will have grumbled is John Herdman, the trainer of the Canadians. He is a great admirer of Hazard. “I would like him to fall next to the team,” he said earlier. The respect for the Belgians in general is immensely great – the FIFA ranking is regarded as proof that Belgium is the second best team in the world -, but unlike in recent days, faith among the Canadians is also gradually increasing. “We have several players who will shine at this World Cup,” said Herdman, among others. And also: “The defense of Belgium is very strong, but our attackers will also test them. It will be an interesting test to see where we stand.”

READ ALSO. Canadian national coach with an open mind against Belgium at the World Cup: “Don’t have much to lose”


It is also for the Red Devils. After Egypt, there is some pessimism among the Belgian fans: 2022 will not be the year in which we win the world title, is the expectation. “I understand that somehow,” said record international Jan Vertonghen – at this World Cup, only nine players count more caps than him (142). “In Russia we had an exceptional selection. Some players have retired in the meantime, we miss them, but they have been replaced well. I think we can do something similar to what we did in 2018.”

Then Panama was the first hurdle. “A comparable opponent to Canada,” said Martinez. “Countries like that have nothing to lose, they are under no pressure. And it is a team with many qualities.”

Speed ​​is the most important. Let that be the sore point of the Belgian defense. Vertonghen is confident: “We are well prepared, Egypt was a wake-up call.” Martinez added: “We’re done.”

Also Eden Hazard? We will know the answer at 10 pm…


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