Soccer-Martinez to stay on as Belgium coach

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Spaniard Martinez holds a news conference after he was appointed as head coach of the Belgium national soccer team in Brussels
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Roberto Martinez will stay on as Belgium coach despite the country’s European Championship exit and attempt another tilt at a major title at next year’s World Cup, he said in an interview with Belgian newspapers on Friday.

Martinez, whose contract runs until after next year’s tournament in Qatar, had not given any clarity on his plans since Belgium were beaten 2-1 by Italy in Munich in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals a week ago in a major disappointment for the team, who have spent the last three years top of the FIFA rankings.

“I’m staying as coach. When I feel I no longer have anything to contribute is when I will leave,” he said.

“But I don’t have that feeling now. I was a bitterly disappointed to be knocked out but now I’m looking ahead to the World Cup in Qatar. And also the Nations League."

Belgium play in the four-team Nations League finals in Italy in October where they meet world champions France in their semi-final. Italy and Spain are the other two countries who have advanced to the final four.

It would offer an imminent shot at redemption for Martinez, whose ‘golden generation’ have promised much for Belgium over the last two major tournaments but fallen short. They were third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“Of course, you always think you could have done better but every decision we took came after much care and planning and being thought out,” Martinez told reporters.

Martinez has been criticised for the substitutions he made in the game against Italy and for his playing style being too rigid.

He pointed out, however, the many injury problems that Belgium struggled with at the tournament, particularly to captain Eden Hazard and talisman Kevin De Bruyne.

“We were not at our best and it is now a challenge to try and improve and get to another level. I’m going to do everything I can to get there," he said.

“It would have been different if we had won the European Championship, then we would have achieved our goal. But now we still have challenge to try and fulfil,” he added.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Toby Davis)

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