Scotland defender Russell Martin has hailed Belgium as potential World Cup winners as the two nations prepare to go head to head tomorrow.
The teams go into the match at Hampden with contrasting fortunes in the campaign so far. Scotland’s hopes of qualification are long gone, while the Belgians descend on Glasgow with a three-point advantage at the top of Group A.
And Martin believes Scotland’s opponents have the potential not just to secure a place in Brazil next summer but to go all the way when they get there.
He said: “It’s their golden generation coming through. It’s no coincidence, they work extremely hard on their youth set-up. It’s about identity as a nation and they’ve got that.
“If you look at their team, it’s a powerful team. If you are looking at a team of athletes, they are right up there. They are powerful but they’ve got match-winners in their team as well.
“If you are looking at the World Cup – if they qualify from this group, which I’m sure they will – they will be right up there. And in the Euros after that they are going to be a force. There are some great teams out there but I expect them to do very well in major tournaments soon.”
As well as being a formidable force as a team, Martin believes Belgium also boast one of the best strikers on the continent in the shape of Christian Benteke. He said: “There are a lot of good strikers in the Premier League but, at this minute in time, he’s probably right up there with the best strikers in Europe.
“He’s a world-class player and he’s a physical threat as well. I’ve played against [Robin] Van Persie, [Luis] Suarez, people like that and, at this minute in time, he’s right up there and it will be a good test, that’s for sure.”
Despite the quality of opposition they will face tomorrow evening, Martin says manager Gordon Strachan will ensure Scotland’s players are fully focused on their own tasks.
He said: “The gaffer wants us to have an identity and, regardless of who we are playing against, we will try to stick to what he wants us to do.
“You are playing against great players and Belgium are full of them throughout their team, throughout their squad really.
“But we are at home and we will try to play the way we want to play, at the tempo we want to play at, and hopefully go toe to toe with them and see how we come out.
“We appreciate how good they will be and we will have to work extremely hard.
“We know what we have to do and it will be tough but I’m confident we will be okay.”