Belgium are ‘as ready as we can be’ for Brazil test

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Roberto Martinez believes his Belgium team are ready for the challenge of Brazil and says there is “something special” about his squad.

Belgium face the five-times world champions for a place in the World Cup semi-finals in Kazan tonight.

Belgium's Eden Hazard, left, and Marouane Fellaini warm up in training ahead of the World Cup quarter-final against Brazil. Picture: AP Photo

Belgium's Eden Hazard, left, and Marouane Fellaini warm up in training ahead of the World Cup quarter-final against Brazil. Picture: AP Photo

Martinez feels his side, despite being stacked with individual talent, cannot be regarded as favourites because of their inexperience but he is convinced they can flourish.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the former Everton manager said: “The two sides are very similar in terms of qualities. The difference is we haven’t won a World Cup – simple as that.

“When you go into a tournament if you don’t have that know-how of winning one you can’t have an advantage on the opponent.

“We shouldn’t be in awe of the opportunity we have. We need to enjoy our game, be ourselves. When we do that our talent shows.

“There is something special in this squad, no doubt about it. The signs are positive and of a real desire to be on the football pitch. We can’t wait. I feel we are as ready as we can be. Over the last two years we have been working towards this moment.”

The Red Devils claimed their place in the quarter-finals by recovering from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in their last-16 tie with three goals in the last 21 minutes.

Martinez said: “Against Japan we showed a mentality that not many international squads can.”

Key to that victory were goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli.

Martinez said: “The biggest strength in the squad is we have different ways of attacking and different ways of using our players and that is something that is important.

“The substitutions against Japan were down to a mentality of the players being ready to make an impact. If we want to be successful [today] we will need the same approach.”

Martinez, who led Wigan to FA Cup glory in 2013, has recently been linked with the Spain national job but he insists his full focus is on the job at hand.

The Spaniard said: “I understand the question but I think now the only thing that matters is the quarter-finals of the World Cup.”

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, who has scored four goals in the tournament, also feels Brazil are the favourites.

Asked if their opponents had any weaknesses, the 
Manchester United forward said: “Weaknesses? Brazil? Not really.

“But we always have to play with pressure, even when the underdogs. We have to savour the occasion, try to win and continue in the World Cup.”

Brazil coach Tite has 
confirmed that Real Madrid full-back Marcelo will return to the side against Belgium tonight.

Marcelo was forced off early on in Brazil’s final group game as they beat Serbia to assure themselves of top spot in Group E, before the same back problem cost him a place in the team that beat Mexico 2-0.

A soft mattress at the team hotel has been blamed for aggravating the issue but Tite revealed during his press conference in Kazan on the eve of the quarter-final that the 30-year-old will replace Felipe Luis against Belgium.

“I talked to Marcelo and Felipe Luis,” said Tite. “Marcelo left [against Serbia] because of a clinical problem and he has not been back because of a physical problem, he only had 45 to 60 minutes. Filipe Luis played very well in those matches but Marcelo is coming back.”

The Brazil coach went on to confirm that Fernandinho will also come into the side.

The Manchester City midfielder has yet to start a game in Russia but will replace Casemiro – who misses out through suspension – and is likely to be joined in the starting XI by club-mate Gabriel Jesus, despite the fact the forward has yet to score in the finals. Defender Miranda joined Tite at the press conference at the Kazan Arena and the Inter Milan man will captain the Selecao.

The 33-year-old, ever-present throughout the finals, is expecting a tough test from a Belgium.

Asked about the threat posed by United forward Lukaku, Miranda replied: “Belgium is not just Lukaku.

“They are a very strong attacking team but the main way to stop the opponent is to be aware of all of the players who are on the pitch because there are several high-quality players, they are very skilful.

“Our defence is going to be very well prepared to neutralise all of the opponents’ attacks.”