BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has said that it will be a challenge to pick his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia next year because of the talent he will be forced to leave out.
“We have a lot of options in all positions. It’s going to be difficult to choose the final 23 because a lot of players have delivered a contribution and deserve to be in the squad,” said Martinez after Belgium concluded their campaign with another high-scoring win, this time 4-0 over Cyprus in Brussels.
“Now it is up to each player to force his way into the squad with his performances.”
The Spanish coach used the opportunity on Tuesday to start Thorgan Hazard and Youri Tielemans, who have not been regulars.
“Thorgan showed why be belongs in the squad. He can play a multitude of positions. I watched his last game at Borussia Moenchengladbach. He took a stoppage time penalty and showed his character and I liked that,” Martinez said of Eden Hazard’s younger brother, who was among Tuesday’s scorers.
“Youri Tielemans has such impressive strength. He turns quickly and plays his football at full speed.”
Belgium were the first country to qualify from the European preliminaries for next year’s tournament and finished with nine wins from their 10 Group H matches, scoring a record-equalling 43 goals in the process.
They matched the record tally Germany had set on Monday as they completed their campaign with a 100 percent record.
“It was not an objective in this campaign to score a lot of goals but because of the standard of the squad we achieved it,” Martinez said. “We scored because we created chances, evidence that the team is doing well.”
Belgium will now begin World Cup preparations with friendlies against Japan and Mexico next month and Martinez added that they would look to play against African and South American teams in friendlies next March.
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Christian Radnedge