Former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said that he had already informed the Belgium squad that he will be stepping down as manager before they took on Croatia in their last and crucial group stage draw.
‘It was really difficult to get the message that I was going to stop,’ Martinez told Belgian outlet Het Laatste Nieuws, as quoted by Daily Mail. ‘I had never done it before and hope I never have to do it again. I couldn’t control all the emotions anymore,’ he added.
The former manager also dismissed the reports of problems within the dressing room, which had intensified after their loss to Morocco. ‘What happens in the dressing room, stays in the dressing room, it’s a sacred place. Did the players talk to each other? Yes. Everyone shared their thoughts and emotions. It was human quality. In fact, it was the complete opposite of what the press claimed. They wouldn’t care about each other. It was far from it. I cherish that memory,’ Martinez said.
The Belgium golden generation had a torrid time at the World Cup after they narrowly won against Canada in the opening match, lost to Morocco in the second group game and drew with Croatia in their final match as they were knocked out from the group stages.
After that, Martinez would officially leave his job, saying, “That was my last game for the national team.”
Martinez coached Belgium to a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup. He was in charge of the team for six years.
“I always work in the long term. I believe in the long term,” he said, fighting off tears. “Since 2018, I had many opportunities to leave and take jobs at the club level. But I wanted to stay loyal. I am not resigning,” Martinez added. “I’ve reached the end of my contract,” he had said.