Up Close And Personal To Potential World Cup Winners
Belgium are the visitors on Friday and Scotland will be hard pressed to get a result.
Russell Martin has hailed Belgium as potential World Cup winners ahead of the game at Hampden on Friday night. The two teams go into the game with contrasting fortunes in the campaign so far with Scotland's hopes of qualification long gone. On the other hand, the Belgians travel to Glasgow sitting at the top of Group A with a three point cushion. Scotland defender Martin believes their opponents have the potential, not just to make it to the finals in Brazil next summer, but to go all the way in the tournament.He said: "It's their golden generation coming through. It's no coincidence, they work extremely hard on their youth set-up over there. It's about identity as a nation and they've got that. If you look at their team, it's a powerful team. If you are looking at a team of athletes, they are right up there. They are powerful but they've got match-winners in their team as well. If you are looking at the World Cup - if they qualify from this group, which I'm sure they will - they will be right up there. And in the Euros after that they are going to be a force. There are some great teams out there but I expect them to do very well in major tournaments soon."And, as well as being a formidable force as a team, Martin believes Belgium also have one of the best strikers on the continent in the shape of Christian Benteke in their squad. Martin went on: "There are a lot of good strikers in the Premier League but, at this minute in time, he's probably right up there with the best strikers in Europe. People say it's all right to do it for one season but the way he has carried on this season, it looks like he will continue to do so for the second one. He's a world-class player and he's a physical threat as well. I've played against (Robin) Van Persie, (Luis) Suarez, people like that and, at this minute in time, he's right up there and it will be a good test, that's for sure."Despite the quality of opposition they will face on Friday, Martin says Scotland manager Gordon Strachan will ensure Scotland's players are fully focused on their own task. He said: "The gaffer wants us to have an identity and, regardless of who we are playing against, we will try to stick to what he wants us to do. You are playing against great players and Belgium are full of them throughout their team, throughout their squad really. But we are at home and we will try to play the way we want to play, at the tempo we want to play at, and hopefully go toe to toe with them and see how we come out. We appreciate how good they will be and we will have to work extremely hard. We know what we have to do and it will be tough but I'm confident we will be okay. The manager always focuses on what we can do to affect the game, rather than focusing too much on the other team because you can over-analyse stuff. The manager will concentrate on what we are good at and how we can hurt them. He's positive that way and hopefully we can go and out and affect the game the way we know we can."Martin has been paired with Grant Hanley in the heart of defence in the last two games against Croatia and England and hopes the pair will be given the chance again to build on their partnership against the Belgians. He said: "He's a young player but he's a good defender. He's an out and out defender and I've enjoyed playing with him. We are different players but I think we did okay in the last two games. We are disappointed to concede three goals against England in the manner in which we did but in Croatia we enjoyed it and did okay. When you look at the players around us, they make it a bit easier for us. Hopefully there is a little partnership there and hopefully we get put together on Friday."
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