Football: Roberto Martinez's masterstroke in getting Belgian players to execute perfect plan against Brazil

Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne speaks with Martinez as the players grab a drink during the match against Brazil.
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne speaks with Martinez as the players grab a drink during the match against Brazil.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - I have said before that Brazil, for me, are the best team in this World Cup, so for Belgium to beat them on Friday is a fantastic result.

Much of the credit has to go to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

The way Belgium set up was unusual and it confused the Brazilians: a 4-3-3 formation instead of the usual three at the back, starting Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli, and deploying Romelu Lukaku on the right.

Yes, the tactical changes worked very well, but what impressed me more was how Martinez was able to convince his players to sacrifice for the team and play differently from how they are used to.

You could see the players believed in him. Lukaku was closing down on the Brazilian full-backs 60m up the pitch from the Belgium goal and he was just running and running for most of the game.

Before the start of the tournament, one of the questions was whether Martinez could get the "Golden Generation" to work together and that has now been answered.

In hindsight, his decision to omit Radja Nainggolan, who he does not get along with, from the squad looks like the right one.

Still it must be said that Brazil managed to create some good chances and I thought goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois did an outstanding job keeping the Brazilians out.

He did not play well against Japan in the round of 16 but, in this match, the Chelsea custodian showed his individual quality.

Belgium were also quite lucky, especially for the first goal but, in the end, they played well enough to throw Brazil off their normal game.

With this win, a lot of the pressure on the team has been lifted now that they have proved they can compete with the best.

It will be another tough game against France in the semi-finals and it will be a low-scoring affair.

Both teams are very strong offensively, but the players simply know each other too well and tactically each side will cancel the other out.

However, I do think Belgium have slightly more individual quality in their line-up.

As I see it, things will be delicately balanced at 0-0 for most of the game and then Belgium will score a late goal to win it.

Michel Sablon, the Football Association of Singapore technical director, was the assistant coach of the Belgium team that finished fourth at the 1986 World Cup, and reprised his role at the 1990 and 1994 editions. He was speaking to Lester Wong.