Martinez delight as key Belgian trio prove fitness

Red Devils coach happy to see captain Hazard, De Bruyne and Witsel show their fitness levels in 2-0 win over Finland

REUTERS June 22, 2021


Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was delighted after three of his key midfielders came through a tough final group match against Finland on Monday to boost the team's chances of Euro 2020 success even further.

Captain Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel, all doubtful when Belgium assembled for their pre-tournament preparations a fortnight before Euro 2020 kicked off, proved their fitness in the 2-0 win over Finland.

"I was delighted because if you would have asked me before we played our first warm-up friendly against Greece what I wanted, it would have been to get all nine points from our three games and to get all the injured players back," Martinez told reporters.

"At that point, Axel and Kevin were not involved in either of our two friendlies and Eden had just eight minutes against Croatia. So clearly today to see 90 minutes for Axel and Eden and the time that Kevin was on the pitch was very satisfying," he added.

"Eden pushed himself and got in good positions and it is the first time in a long time I’ve see Eden Hazard turning, twisting, left and right. He looks happy."

Hazard has undergone three major ankle operations while Witsel played a full match for the first time since a serious Achilles tendon injury in January. De Bruyne suffered a double facial fracture in last month’s Champions League final.

"On top of that, you see that every outfield player has been on the pitch in these three games to give us the perfect momentum to go forward to the next round. You get better as a team if you get better as individuals at this level,” Martinez said.

"This team has been very consistent over the last five years and it is now just a matter of getting every individual to his very, very best."

Belgium, who are top of the world rankings, next play in Seville in the last 16 on Sunday with their opponents still to be confirmed.

"It’s going to be hot, on a slow pitch. We need to adapt and that will now be our focus for the next five days of preparation," Martinez added.


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