Brussels, Wednesday @peoplesport11
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez is concerned ‘mental fatigue’ caused by the lack of a Premier League winter break could wreck his team’s World Cup chances.
Their squad for the friendly with Saudi Arabia next Tuesday featured 10 players who are based in the English top-flight, where in contrast to many European leagues there is no winter pause. Martinez’s team have been drawn in the same group as England at this summer’s World Cup in Russia and Martinez fears for the chances of both teams.
He said: ‘One of the biggest issues is how you get the players who have been through the demands of the Premier League to refresh in time and then be up for major tournaments. ‘If you want to be competitive at international level, the players need to have a mental break in the winter.
‘It’s very different when you work with players in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland. ‘They have a little bit of a break and mentally – if not physically – it allows you to have a second-half of the season at a better level.
‘My personal experience of seven seasons in the Premier League [managing Wigan Athletic and Everton] is seeing players getting to March with mental fatigue.
‘That’s why we need to be careful of this camp and that’s why we’ve picked to play only one game. ‘We have to have in mind the mental state of the players.’ The current Premier League season ends on May 13, just over a month before the World Cup kicksoff on June 14.
Belgium’s first match at the tournament sees them play Panama on June 18, the same day England take on Tunisia. Although they are only playing one match this month, Belgium have three warm-up games in the immediate build-up to the World Cup.
They play Portugal on June 2, Egypt on June 6 and Costa Rica on June 11. Their current squad contains Tottenham trio Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele, Chelsea pair Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, Manchester United duo Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku and Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne and Vincent Kompany. – DAILYMAIL