De Bruyne, Lukaku ‘best in the world’ says Martinez
Belgium will face an Italy side full of confidence in their quarter-final bout on Friday.
Both teams have won every game played at the tournament so far, but for one that streak will end, as will their participation at the Euros.
Belgium have swathes of quality in their side and coach Roberto Martinez has claimed that he would bet on either one of Romelu Lukaku or Kevin De Bruyne winning the Balon d’Or.
“I would split €50 for Romelu Lukaku and €50 for Kevin De Bruyne,” said Martinez. “I think both, in their roles, they’ve been the best in world football. So I hope that they can get the rewards that they deserve.”
He added that Lukaku had found his maturity at Inter Milan. The situation suited him perfectly describes Martinez.
“We’re talking about a Romelu Lukaku that is more than a goalscorer since he moved to Inter,” he said. “He arrived at the right club, at the right time, with the right coach [Antonio Conte] and has developed this incredible maturity.
“That is not just the goalscorer that we all know. He is someone that can affect the game, he can affect players around him. He can really really influence what you’re going to do on the pitch.
“He is still 28, the goalscoring records are amazing, but I think Romelu Lukaku has become a very mature footballer in the last 14 months.”
Lukaku will be Roberto Mancini’s main focus in his preparation. Many of the Italian defenders have faced the Inter Milan forward last season and couldn’t stop him.
A benefit to Mancini however, will be the missing stars from the Belgium team.
KDB, Hazard fail to train
Both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are unlikely to be involved in Friday’s quarter-final match having both suffered injuries against Portugal in the 1-0 win.
Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur confirmed that neither player was involved in the warm up for training.
Start of Belgium’s last training session before the Italy game (15 mins open). Still no Eden Hazard or Kevin De Bruyne with the squad during the warming-up. Jason Denayer is back. #bel #ita pic.twitter.com/wpJr9ESnWG
— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) July 1, 2021
This follows on from the previous words of Martinez who said that they wouldn’t be ready for Friday but should return if they make the semi-finals.
“They will remain with the squad. We won’t get them fully fit for Friday. In the next phase they will be fit to play. We take it day by day,” he said on Monday.
In their place is likely to be Yannick Carrasco and Youri Tielemans. Two quality replacements for sure, however, still a significant drop off.
This article was edited by Ben Browning.