Belgium boss Martinez set to lose job as Croatia knock them out

World Cup briefing – day 11

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Belgium’s golden generation are no more after they exited the World Cup at the hands of Croatia on Thursday afternoon. The Red Devils had gone into the game knowing they had to claim all three points to boost their chances of going through to the knockout stages. However, they were unable to make a breakthrough at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium and Express Sport will now take a look at four things we learned from the showdown.

Martinez set to lose job

Martinez has been in charge of Belgium ever since 2017, having been given the job following the work he’d done at Wigan and Everton in the past.

He initially did well, guiding the Red Devils to third at the 2018 Word Cup in Russia. Ever since, however, his side have underwhelmed – despite their obvious talent and potential.

Belgium were poor at Euro 2020 but opted to stick with Martinez. In the wake of their elimination from this year’s tournament, however, there’s no chance whatsoever of the Spaniard receiving similar backing.

As one of the favourites, more from the country was expected. Instead, they’ve gone out of the World Cup having scored just one goal from their three matches in the competition.

There are some good managers out there to take over, such as Mauricio Pochettino and Thomas Tuchel. Martinez has done well to survive this long and, with his contract now up, it’s hard to imagine him getting a renewal.

Lukaku frustrating but vital

Having been unimpressed by a dire first half where Belgium failed to provide any spark, Martinez opted to throw on Romelu Lukaku in the hope the Inter Milan striker could spare his side from embarrassment.

Unfortunately for both men, things didn’t work out that way.

Lukaku missed a huge chance to put Belgium ahead shortly after coming on. He smacked his effort against the post from just outside the six yard box, and floated a straightforward header over the bar – though it wouldn’t have counted.

Yet while he’s now set to be mocked online, it isn’t Lukaku’s fault that Belgium are no longer competing on the world’s biggest stage.

His introduction actually saw the Red Devils improve after the break, with Lukaku offering them a focal point up top that had previously been missing. If he had been fit the whole tournament, it could have been a different story.

Croatia flex their muscles again

Croatia are a top team and, in today’s world, still underrated despite reaching the final of the World Cup four years ago – where they’d go on to lose to France.

And they put in a resilient showing against Belgium to show they’ve got the strength required to go far in the competition yet again.

They’re particularly strong in midfield, with Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic slick and styish as they won their battle with Belgium in that area of the pitch.

RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol isn’t bad, either, with it clear to see why the 20-year-old is attracting transfer interest from Chelsea.

And Dejan Lovren, so often ridiculed during his time at Liverpool, also stepped up to make it a nightmare afternoon for Leandro Trossard.

Belgium’s golden generation is over

One thing is clear. Belgium, much like England when they crashed out of the European Championships at the hands of Iceland back in 2016, need a rebuild.

And that will have to start by ripping up their golden generation and going again.

Defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweirld are long past their best, while it’a a similar story with Thomas Meunier as well. Thibaut Courtois is worth keeping, however, even if his performances at this year’s tournament haven’t convinced.

In midfield, De Bruyne is another player who should stick around. Likewise Lukaku.

But everyone else can be replaced. It’s time for Belgium to get brutal, especially if they’re to recover from such a chastening World Cup campaign.

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