Belgium coach Roberto Martinez says his team to meet France in Thursday’s Nations League semi-final is stronger than the one that lost to their neighbours in the last four of the World Cup in Russia three years ago.
Thursday’s clash in Turin is the first between the sides since France’s 1-0 victory in St Petersburg, after which they went onto be crowned world champions.
For Belgium it was a lost opportunity, but Martinez feels the 2021 version of his side is better.
“I would like to believe that we are stronger, just because we have more players“, he told a news conference on Wednesday.
“When we need cover for suspensions or injured players out of the squad, I think the number of players available for Belgium now has grown“.
Three years on from the loss in Russia, Martinez believes there is a deeper understanding among his players.
“It gives us a lot of synchronisation, something that you don’t get in international football. I think we always try to have a certain continuity with the selection players and try to work as you would in a club environment“.
“The understanding between the players is a lot bigger, and we’ve been through a lot together. So, in terms of experience and the pool of players. I believe that we are stronger than we were in 2018“, Martinez added.
The loss to the French was also the last time Belgium failed to score in an international. They have netted in each of their 38 matches since.
“We are a team that works hard to create chances. The French team is always very well drilled defensively, really well organised, and then you need to be always cautious because the moment that you lose the ball they’ve got a world-class attacking threat“, Martinez said.
“This is a competition we want to be involved; it’s not a friendly game with no significance. I think it’s a very meaningful competition“.