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Belgium have ‘huge respect’ for Canada, says Martinez

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez on Tuesday said his side have “huge respect” for Canada who will be playing their first World Cup game for 36 years when the teams meet in Qatar.

Martinez’s side finished third in Russia four years ago and will be heavy favourites against Canada, playing at the finals for the first time since 1986, on Wednesday.

Belgium faced a similar proposition in 2018 when they beat tournament debutants Panama 3-0 in their opening game with three second-half goals.

“We have huge respect for what Canada have achieved because when you finish top of the (qualifying) group ahead of national teams such as United States and Mexico, it’s something with substance, it’s not a coincidence,” Martinez told a pre-match press conference.

“They look like a team, not just a group of players coming together to play for the national team.

“That’s a very dangerous situation, when you’re playing a team with nothing to lose. We saw that with Panama for 50 minutes, and we have to match that enthusiasm.”

Belgium, ranked second in the world behind Brazil, played a warm-up friendly against Egypt last week in Kuwait but lost 2-1.

“The friendly was important for us and we took that game almost as a competitive training session,” said Martinez.

“I think it was a very good starting point.

“It’s good sometimes to feel like we’re not there yet. It was a wake-up for us. Probably that defeat will speed up the process.”

Belgium’s record goalscorer Romelu Lukaku is set to miss their first two matches as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.

Captain Eden Hazard has also struggled for game time at Real Madrid due to struggles with form and fitness.

But veteran defender Jan Vertonghen said Belgium would be ready, despite the unusual build-up to the first World Cup played midway through the European club season.

“(Normally) you can close your season with your club and then have time to work with your (national) team, a team you don’t work with too much, and get a feel for the tournament,” he said.

“Lots of teams have not played together since September and that is not good.

“Things are entirely different but the World Cup trophy is the same and that’s the main thing.”

Morocco and Croatia, the other teams in Group F, meet earlier on Wednesday.

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