Martinez lauds 'winning team' after Belgium book World Cup spot
Belgium delivered a performance of character and proved they were building "a winning team", coach Roberto Martinez said after they became the first side to qualify from the European preliminaries for next year's World Cup Finals in Russia.
It proved to be a very tense affair against Greece yesterday morning (Singapore time), but Belgium prevailed 2-1 via goals by Jan Vertonghen and Romelu Lukaku (right).
The win extended their unbeaten run to 11 games - tying their previous best - and ensured top place in Group H for the Belgians, who reached the quarter-finals in Brazil in 2014.
Belgium now have an unassailable 22 points, eight ahead of second-placed Bosnia with two rounds left.
Said Martinez: "I was really proud with the way the players fought. There were a few who really stood up (Thibaut) Courtois, (Kevin) de Bruyne, (Jan) Vertonghen, (Marouane) Fellaini.
"It is a real team and I can only be proud of them.
"The players were not pleased at half-time and, from their reaction, you can see we are creating a winning team.
"They showed character, inspired one another and wanted to win."
In a match that could have gone either way, Martinez's side struggled to penetrate the hosts in Piraeus until Vertonghen slammed home a long-range effort in the 70th minute to spark off a flurry of action.
Greece equalised through Zeca within three minutes, but the home side's celebrations were cut short when Lukaku headed in Thomas Meunier's cross almost immediately for what turned out to be the winner.
Martinez, however, pointed out that with so much at stake, the result was always going to be the only thing that mattered.
He said: "We must be proud about being the first from Europe to qualify and now look to work harder to become better.
"It was clear that we didn't play well, we weren't ourselves. But the game was only about winning, it was like a cup final.
"It was not about playing good football. We had to win, in whatever manner we could.
"The first half of the game was probably the worst football we've played in this campaign."
Belgium have won seven of their eight group games, with a home draw against the Greeks in March the only blemish.
Their 35-goal haul in eight matches is the most by any team in the European qualifiers. - WIRE SERVICES
OTHER GROUP H RESULTS
- Estonia 1 Cyprus 0
- Gibraltar 0 Bosnia and Herzegovina 4