BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium may have played a poor game in drawing at the Czech Republic in their World Cup qualifier but coach Roberto Martinez said the character of the team had pleased him.
The Belgians, top of the FIFA rankings, had to fight back for a 1-1 draw in Prague in their Group E game on Saturday with record scorer Romelu Lukaku equalising in the second half.
“We were not our normal selves,” Martínez sighed at his news conference afterwards. “We wasted too much and we played football against a team that had momentum.
“The Czech Republic are in a good period, they scored six times last Wednesday, which something you don’t see that often anymore in today’s football,” he said, referring to the Czech’s opening group 6-2 win at Latvia.
“It is a modern team full of confidence. They played full of energy and with good pressing. I have to congratulate them on their performance ”
Martinez said weakness shown by his own team, in an exciting match in which the Czechs came close to snatching victory late on, was essential learning ahead of the European Championship in mid-year.
“It’s important that we were tested a few months before the Euros and I’m satisfied with the response my team has shown.
“I saw resilience and character. We really wanted to come back after going behind. Concentration returned, we became dangerous again. I would like to emphasise that we did not accept that we could lose.”
Belgium, who began their World Cup campaign last Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over Wales, meet Belarus in Leuven on Tuesday.
“It is important that we refresh the team a bit. We play three games in six days, that’s a lot. We will look at it individually. But changes will come,” Martínez added.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Frances Kerry)