‘It’s emotional’: Roberto Martínez quits as Belgium coach after World Cup exit

  • Martínez steps down after more than six years in charge
  • ‘I didn’t resign, this is the end of my contract’

Roberto Martínez has announced his departure as Belgium’s head coach after their group-stage exit at the World Cup. Belgium’s failure to beat Croatia in their final Group F match led Martínez to confirm his exit after more than six years in charge.

Martínez insisted he was proud of his legacy despite his failure to achieve with the so-called golden generation, with Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Kevin De Bruyne among the players who may never return to this stage.

Romelu Lukaku missed a series of chances to earn victory and a place in the last 16, including a glaring opportunity in second-half stoppage time. Martínez guided Belgium to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, where they were defeated by the eventual winners, France. Despite a winning start against Canada in Qatar, a shock defeat by Morocco and a goalless draw against Croatia led to Belgium’s humbling exit.

Martínez hugged his players after the final whistle in Doha. “That was my last game with the national team and it’s emotional as you can imagine,” he said. “It was going to be the end whether we were world champions or out in the group stage. It has nothing to do with being eliminated at this stage. This is the time for me to accept that this day is the last game.”

It was a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

Asked to clarify when he made his decision, Martínez said: “I took the decision just before the World Cup. I always work in the long term. I believe the long-term projects need to be long term and they need to be set in advance. As you can imagine, since 2018 I have had many opportunities to leave and take jobs at club level. I always wanted to be loyal, I always wanted to finish the job and now I don’t resign, this is the end of my contract. This was always the plan.”

Martínez said defeat by Morocco was behind their downfall. “When you come to the World Cup, you have to play three games and we only played one,” he said. “The first two games, we were fearful, we were not the team that we are, we listened to the noise on the outside and we were feeling the responsibility.

“We played thinking that we could lose the game and that we could be out and that’s what cost us progressing. If we had gone through, I think we would have seen the real Belgium and we could have been very competitive.”


Ben Fisher at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Roberto Martínez accuses Belgian media of trying to divide country
Roberto Martínez accused the French media of dirty tricks and the Belgian press of seeking to divide their country before the must-win match against Croatia

Andy Hunter in Doha

30, Nov, 2022 @4:50 PM

Article image
Roberto Martínez exits as dreams of golden generation end with whimper
Belgium’s manager and his trophyless group of players leave a diminished legacy after elimination from the World Cup

Andy Hunter at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium

01, Dec, 2022 @8:22 PM

Article image
Belgium crash out of World Cup as Lukaku’s misses let Croatia off hook
Romelu Lukaku missed several glaring chances for Belgium as they crashed out of the World Cup to let Croatia off the hook after their goalless draw

Ben Fisher at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium

01, Dec, 2022 @5:16 PM

Article image
Croatia 0-0 Belgium: World Cup 2022 – as it happened
Belgium went out of the tournament at the group stage after the substitute Romelu Lukaku missed a series of late chances

Rob Smyth

01, Dec, 2022 @5:18 PM

Article image
Courtois mistake and Aboukhlal help intrepid Morocco shock Belgium
Abdelhamid Sabiri’s set piece and a stoppage-time goal from Zakaria Aboukhlal gave Morocco a deserved 2-0 win against Belgium to shake up Group F

Andy Hunter at Al Thumama Stadium

27, Nov, 2022 @3:30 PM

Article image
World Cup draw: group-by-group analysis for Qatar 2022
The draw threw up political intrigue, a heavyweight European clash and one group that is particularly hard to call

Jonathan Wilson

01, Apr, 2022 @7:24 PM

Article image
Croatia knock Japan out of World Cup after Livakovic’s heroics in shootout
Dominik Livakovic saved three penalties as Croatia won 3-1 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw at Al Janoub Stadium

Andy Hunter at Al Janoub Stadium

05, Dec, 2022 @6:12 PM

Article image
World Cup 2022: complete guide to all 830 players
Everything you need to know (and a bit more) about every squad member in Qatar. Click on the circular player pictures for a full profile and match ratings

Marcus Christenson, Steven Bloor and Garry Blight

16, Nov, 2022 @12:00 PM

Article image
Belgium run ragged by Canada but Michy Batshuayi goal earns them win
Canada dominated for long periods of this Group F encounter but Michy Batshuayi scored just before half-time, giving Belgium a 1-0 win

Andy Hunter at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

23, Nov, 2022 @9:27 PM

Article image
Canada get everything except the points against Belgium in World Cup return
Les Rouges are still hunting their first ever World Cup goal, yet one can’t help but marvel at how far they’ve come

Bryan Armen Graham at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium

23, Nov, 2022 @11:46 PM