TURIN (Reuters) – Belgium coach Roberto Martinez believes the weight of responsibility his players felt in their quest for silverware was to blame for their second-half collapse against France in their Nations League semi-final on Thursday.
The Belgians surrendered a 2-0 halftime lead to lose 3-2 against the world champions, conceding a 90th-minute goal three minutes after striker Romelu Lukaku had what looked like the winning goal ruled out for offside.
A star-studded squad, including Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard, have been dubbed the ‘golden generation’, but they again fell flat in their pursuit of a trophy three months after a quarter-final exit to Italy at Euro 2020.
“The second half was a question of emotion, feeling the responsibility of getting to the final,” Martinez told a news conference.
“All of a sudden it became a game that we wanted to finish. At that point we stopped playing. If anything, it is the responsibility we feel to our fans and the way this generation wants to bring silverware in such a desperate manner.”
Goals from Yannick Carrasco and Lukaku in the space of three minutes capped a fine first-half display from Martinez’s men before a disastrous second period.
It was another disappointment for Belgium fans, who have seen their talented team go out at the last eight stage in the last two European Championships and finish third at the 2018 World Cup, but Martinez was hopeful the experience could prove useful ahead of next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
“What you have to upload is the commitment and desire of wanting to be there. We are in the right phases of the competitions,” he said.
“Now it is making sure we learn. We all feel as a nation that we are all together hurting, but 12 months from now we have a major tournament.
“It is a good moment for us to show resilience, that we want to grow even through this cruel experience.”
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Ken Ferris)