Belgium coach Roberto Martinez to leave after World Cup exit

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has confirmed he will leave his role following his team’s early exit from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Thursday.

Belgium were eliminated from the group stage following a 0-0 draw with Croatia, finishing third behind the Croatians and group winners Morocco. A victory in their final group match would have been enough to send Belgium into the round of 16.

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“My situation is very clear. This is the end for me,” Martinez told a news conference.

“Whatever the result of this tournament, I took the decision before the World Cup. It’s all about long term. Since 2018, I could have taken many jobs. I don’t resign, it’s just ending like this.”

Belgium missed numerous opportunities to score the goal against Croatia that would have taken them through to the knockout stages. The 0-0 draw summed up a disappointing campaign in which they scored only once across three matches and made more headlines for reported off-field squabbles than their football on the pitch.

Martinez took charge of Belgium in 2016, succeeding Marc Wilmots. The Spaniard — formerly coach of Everton, Wigan Athletic and Swansea City — guided a so-called “golden generation” of Belgian talent to a third-place finish in the 2018 World Cup and a quarterfinal elimination from Euro 2020.

Belgium went into the 2022 World Cup ranked No. 2 in the FIFA rankings.

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“We are extremely disappointed after the early exit of our national team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar because we have failed and thereby let down the people of Belgium who supported our team all the way through,” the Royal Belgian FA (RBFA) said in a statement.

“We thank Roberto Martínez for everything he achieved with this Golden Generation, as a coach as well as a technical director: four consecutive years number one on the FIFA-ranking, a bronze medal at the 2018 World Cup, qualification for the UEFA 2021 Euros, the 2021 UEFA Nations League Final Four and the 2022 World Cup,” CEO Peter Bossaert said.

“With his team Roberto left an immense legacy for the next Belgian football generations.

“Not only by introducing a modern structure on analysis, education and scouting but also by initiating the preparation for the next step in the careers of the players aiming to become a coach. But also his contribution to the expansion of the brand-new and state-of-the-art Football centre in Tubize was huge.

“Last but not least we thank him for the familiar atmosphere he brought into our house and for being a great ambassador for Belgian football. The full staff of the RBFA will miss him a lot. We wish Roberto Martínez the best of luck for the future.”

Forward Michy Batshuayi said Martinez was emotional when informing the Belgium squad he would not be continuing.

“We are surprised by his decision,” Batshuayi said. “He told us while crying. It’s also the end for some players; a lot of them cried in the dressing room after the game.”

Martinez admitted this might be the end for some of the team’s ‘golden generation’ too, but believes he leaves the team with a fresh band of young players to take them forward.

“Players like [Youri] Tielemans, [Amadou] Onana, [Jeremy] Doku … the golden generation have achieved something that should excite future generations. That legacy lives on, and they must continue to set high standards.”

Information from ESPN’s Julien Laurens and Reuters was used in this report.