‘We‘re happy to be boring!‘: Roberto Martinez wants Belgium to go under the radar

‘We‘re happy to be boring!‘: Roberto Martinez wants Belgium to go under the radar ahead of Tunisia showdown

For Belgium‘s Roberto Martinez everything — even Saturday‘s match against in Moscow — is subsidiary to next Thursday‘s clash with England in Kaliningrad. That is when he will learn what his team are really made of.

The great unknown quantity where Belgium are concerned is how they will fare against quality opposition. 

They were merciless in qualifying, dropping only two of the 30 points on offer and smashing in 43 goals.

But the problems tend to materialise when the opposition have more possession, forcing the two wing-backs in manager Martinez‘s 3-4-2-1 to retreat and reducing the links between defence and attack.

Good sides who actually command possession can make things difficult for the team. This was midfielder Kevin De Bruyne‘s view after the 3-3 friendly against Mexico last November.

Martinez has not faced tough opposition often enough to know how things might work out.

It was when the question of set-pieces came up on Friday that Martinez wanted to talk about England. ‘They have fantastic movement and fantastic delivery,‘ he said.

For now, though, the Belgians have been continuing as they left off in qualifying, with Romelu Lukaku scoring twice in a 3-0 hammering of Panama in their first group game.

Despite that, Martinez has been left to argue the merits of being one of the sides which no one has been talking about.

‘We do want to be boring,‘ he said. ‘We‘re a football team, we‘re not here to fulfil stories.‘

Like all the coaches here, he is conscious that breaking down obdurate defences is increasingly a requirement in a tournament in which there has been a levelling out, with many of the smaller nations capable of inflicting embarrassment.

‘I think we‘ll see it more and more in every tournament,‘ he said, when asked why some of the world‘s biggest names, including Brazil, Argentina and Germany, have struggled against modest opposition. ‘Everyone now has the technology and the information to prepare down to detail.‘

Martinez said weaker teams now come out with a ‘clearer idea of what they do‘ — citing a statistic that more than half of all goals in the tournament have been scored after set-pieces. ‘It‘s harder and harder and harder to score goals from open play,‘ he observed.

Martinez said he expected Tunisia to be more attack-minded than against England, as they look to avoid elimination.

Fakhreddine Ben Youssef — who earned Tunisia‘s penalty against England — sounded confident. He said: ‘We have got over our fears in the first game and each of us now has an idea of the kind of atmosphere there is at a World Cup.‘

He added: ‘Belgium have some excellent guys who are all used to playing alongside one another but, for me, England are the strongest team, so we‘ll be going all out for the three points in this second match.‘

The North Africans can count on support from a large Tunisian community in Moscow, so the Belgians may face a hostile reception at the Spartak Stadium.