BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium’s winning start to the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign on Thursday provided evidence of emerging talent in the team, said coach Roberto Martinez, even if talisman Eden Hazard was again the stand out performer.
Captain Hazard scored twice as Belgium beat Russia 3-1 at home on Thursday in their opening Group I qualifier, which also featured strong showings by Leander Dendoncker and Youri Tielemans.
“When Eden plays like that, you just have to sit back and enjoy it. But we also used players with less caps and less experience. Leander Dendoncker and Youri Tielemans showed that there are many younger players waiting to make the breakthrough,” Martinez said.
“They have learnt a lot over the last year and played as if they were long-standing regulars in the team.
“Their performances send out a clear message for Belgian football. They are two players who earned their stripes in Belgian football and only then moved to clubs outside the country.”
“There are far too many talents who leave Belgium far too early,” added the Spaniard, whose team next meet Cyprus away on Sunday.
Hazard was pleased he and his team mates were able to get the job done but wanted them to raise their game against the Cypriots.
“We might not have played eye-catching football but it was very important to start with a win,” he told reporters.
“We are satisfied with this result against Russia. You cannot underestimate a win in the opening game of a qualifying campaign and it is really important with an eye on the next match.
“There are still things to work on but it has given us confidence for the next match against Cyprus. That will be a lot different to game against Russia.”
Hazard will collect his 100th cap for his country on Sunday, though the Chelsea player said a victory would be the best way to mark the milestone.
“What do I wish for the occasion? Nothing special. I just hope we go out at full speed to beat Cyprus,” he said.
(Reporting By Mark Gleeson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)