DUBLIN (Reuters) – Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said he was pleased with the outcome of his experiment with the team on Saturday as he fielded fringe players in a 2-2 draw with the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
Martinez took the unusual step of leaving out all players with 50 caps or more — effectively 12 regulars — for the match against the Irish and Tuesday’s friendly in Brussels against Burkina Faso.
“This was a bonus contest because we learned a lot. I could have chosen our best players, but who would have benefited from that? What I’ve seen is 25 players fighting for places in the World Cup squad all week now. That is much more useful,” he told reporters after Belgium twice took the lead but conceded an 85th minute equaliser.
“I don’t like friendly matches. I’m always a bit scared of them because of the lack of effort. Ireland luckily turned it into a good game, with a noisy crowd.
“We started well. The fact that we conceded two goals is of course not so good.
“On the positive side, I think the players always want to hit back. I’m happy with the leadership that some players showed. The result is not that bad, after all we played on the road. It now comes down to winning matches like these.”
Top ranked Belgium have not kept a clean sheet in their last five matches.
“That is a concern, but these were different defenders than the previous four games,” Martinez said, “so we can’t compare that”.
“But it is inevitable that we will try not to concede a goal against Burkina Faso.”
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Edmund Blair)