Roberto Martinez had reassuring words on Romelu Lukaku’s status and even attempted to put a positive spin on Belgium’s 4-1 defeat to the Netherlands following the stunning reverse.
Belgium are the world’s second-ranked side but were completely outclassed on home turf by a team they had not lost to since 1997.
It had still been 0-0 when Lukaku hobbled off in the first half, however, with the Chelsea forward trying and failing to play on after sustaining an injury in a tangle with Nathan Ake.
However, with three more Nations League matches to come this month, Martinez could at least inform fans Lukaku’s ailment was not as serious as might have been feared.
“Lukaku’s problem was a knock,” he said, although he accepted: “From then on, it became a more difficult match.”
This was far from an ideal result in Belgium’s first competitive match of a World Cup year, but Martinez believes his side can benefit from the experience.
“This is what we needed to prepare for the World Cup,” he said. “It’s a hard result, but it’s clear what we need to work on.
“The World Cup does not start until November, but with the national team it is already within 17 days. We will have to work in a specific way.”
The former Everton manager added:
“It is clear what we need to work on. We have to use the Nations League to prepare for the World Cup.
“We started well and found spaces. After that, it became physically difficult for players who didn’t play much. The result is the result of all these aspects.”
Jan Vertonghen disagreed, however, with the Belgium defender identifying issues that were not purely physical.
“It’s a very painful defeat,” he said. “We didn’t get off to a bad start, though. We made it through a few times, especially via the left side.
“We lacked momentum after Romelu’s substitution. The Dutch have had just as tough a season as we have. That shouldn’t be an excuse. The physical part is not tonight’s shortcoming.
“In particular, we had difficulties controlling the deep striker.
“This defeat puts us with both feet on the ground. It is clear that we will have to keep working hard.”
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