Roberto Martinez

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Frustrated by Martinez’s tactics, De Bruyne calls out Belgium boss

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Based on his two-plus seasons of performances for club and country, Kevin De Bruyne has earned the right to publicly voice his and his teammates’ frustrations — the unofficial players’ spokesman, if you will.

[ MORE: Switzerland qualify for World Cup | Croatia join them ]

Thus, it would clearly behoove Belgium manager Roberto Martinez to have De Bruyne, Manchester City’s transcendent playmaker, firmly on his side a mere seven months before the 2018 World Cup. With that in mind, let’s check in on one of the trendier picks to triumph next summer, following Friday’s 3-3 friendly draw with Mexicoquotes from Goal.com:

“Mexico were just tactically better. Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield — it was five against seven.

“Look, we still put too much on our talents. As long as we don’t have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico. It’s a pity that we have not yet found a solution.

“Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball.

“Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn’t really fit. We now know that something must be changed against such teams.

“But, eventually. Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations as against Mexico in the future.”

Well, that’s not exactly ideal, but on the bright side, Martinez has proven tactically flexible extremely stubborn and rigid while manager of Everton and Wigan. There’s probably very little to validate De Bruyne’s gripes.

Fortunately for De Bruyne, Martinez and Co., the Red Devils breezed through their qualification group as one of Europe’s four unbeaten sides (alongside Germany, Spain and England), thus the current international break — along with those closer to the World Cup in March and May/June — are meant to be used for experimentation and fine-turning.

[ MORE: Southgate plans to put England through mock shootout before WC ]

Of course, said experimentation and fine-tuning must result in a handful of affirmative answers, otherwise you’ve really only managed to halt momentum and unbalance a side, which will inevitably prompt your star player to question your leadership in a public forum.

You stay you, Roberto.

Michy Batshuayi: “Everyone knows I have to play more”

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The striker who secured Chelsea’s Premier League title could be leaving the club after just one season.

Michy Batshuayi vented his frustration to the press after starting just once in the Premier League, though he did come off the bench 19 times and score five goals, including the game-winner to clinch the title against West Bromwich Albion.

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“No, no, no,” Batshuayi said regarding a question of whether he’d accept another season on the bench. “Everyone knows that I have to play more, that I have to score goals. There’s a World Cup coming up next year. I want to be ready for the World Cup.”

Batshuayi was signed for reportedly more than $42 million in July 2016 from Marseille but found himself second-choice behind Diego Costa in Antonio Conte‘s preferred starting XI. Batshuayi however added he wasn’t going to ask for a transfer.

“I’m not going to ask anything,” Batshuayi said. “I’m going to listen to what they are saying. They are the boss, not me. And afterwards I’ll discuss it with my agent and the club. Amicably, as friends of course.

“A loan? That’s not up to me. That’s up to them (Chelsea). They take the decisions, not me.”

Batshuayi’s future will remain up in the air until Diego Costa and Romelo Lukaku’s future’s get sorted out. If Costa does indeed make a move to China and Lukaku returns to Chelsea, Batshuayi could find himself in the same spot as last season, or he could be even further down the depth chart if Costa remains at the club and Lukaku joins as well.

With Batshuayi looking to earn a place in Roberto Martinez’s 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup, he may have to move in order to get the minutes he needs to prove he’s worthy of a place on the roster. Batshuayi is still getting calls to the national team in the meantime, and scored in a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic on Monday.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Lukaku credits ex-Everton manager Martinez after hat trick vs Sunderland

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Everton striker Romelu Lukaku certainly has seen the photographs, ones that claim he was miserable upon learning that his former club coach Roberto Martinez would be taking his national team reigns at Belgium.

But Lukaku, 23, is crediting Martinez with pulling the right strings to snap him out of his goal-scoring slump.

[ MORE: Match recapJPW’s UCL predictions ]

The striker has five goals between Belgium and Everton this week, including a quick-fire hat trick against Sunderland on Monday, and he says the best is yet to come (with a shout out to Martinez).

“It was coming, when I went to Belgium it was all about my fitness levels,” Lukaku said. “They weren’t as good as I wanted them to be. Martinez helped me with the technical stuff and I was happy. I managed to finish the other chances, and I’m happy for the team.”

Everton rises to third in the table, level on points with No. 2 Chelsea. The Toffees look reinvigorated under new manager Ronald Koeman, and both Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye have been electric for the Goodison Park set.

Could this be the year Everton makes a serious Top Five push?

Misery for Belgium’s Martinez, Italy’s Ventura in new jobs

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Roberto Martinez’s Belgium was booed off the pitch against Spain. Giampiero Ventura watched Italy’s error-prone defense gift goals to France.

It was a night to forget for two coaches on their national team debuts in Thursday’s friendlies.

And the future of Netherland manager Danny Blind looks bleaker after barely a year in the job after his team collapsed to Greece ahead of World Cup qualifying beginning.

But Julen Lopetegui enjoyed the perfect introduction to international soccer coaching with Spain – at Martinez’s expense – as the recently deposed European champion beat top-ranked Belgium.

[ MORE: USMNT preview | Lineup projection ]

BELGIUM 0 SPAIN 2

After being eliminated from Euro 2016 in the round of 16, Spain produced a reminder in Brussels of just how it conquered the continent to win the previous two European Championships.

David Silva scored both goals as Spain outclassed Belgium, highlighting the size of the task facing former Everton manager Martinez to mold his talent-packed squad into a team capable of living up to its potential.

Silva fired a low shot under goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the 34th minute and netted from the penalty spot after the break to take his international tally to 26 goals in 104 matches.

Belgium managed only one serious effort on goal, an 83rd-minute strike by Kevin De Bruyne that David De Gea tipped over the bar.

World Cup qualifying: Belgium plays away in Cyprus in Group H on Tuesday. Spain hosts Liechtenstein in Group G on Monday.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20 star signs for Schalke ]

ITALY 1 FRANCE 3

Defender Giorgio Chiellini was to blame for Anthony Martial and Olivier Giroud scoring in the first half. On his Italy debut, 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma also failed to protect his near post to allow Layvin Kurzawa to find the net after the break.

Donnarumma replaced Gianluigi Buffon at the start the second half to become the youngest goalkeeper to ever play for the Azzurri.

Graziano Pelle scored Italy’s only goal, initially canceling out Martial’s first international goal.

FIFA used the match to test video assistance for referees for the first time in an international friendly, although the match officials didn’t receive the information from the off-line trials.

“We’ve seen football history here,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino told Italy’s Rai TV .

World Cup qualifying: Italy plays away against Israel in Group G on Monday. France is at Belarus in Group A on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Three things to watch in USMNT match ]

NETHERLANDS 1 GREECE 2

The Netherlands was condemned to a fifth straight home loss for the first time since 1933, highlighting the depths the team has sunk to since reaching the semifinals at the 2014 World Cup.

The Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016, with Blind taking charge toward the end of qualifying. Reaching the 2018 World Cup might prove as challenging based on this performance.

Georginio Wijnaldum put the Dutch in front, but the confidence ebbed out of Blind’s team and Konstantinos Mitroglou headed in Greece’s equalizer. Ioannis Gianniotas netted Greece’s winner in the second half.

“It’s unacceptable at this level to give away goals that easily,” veteran Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder said.

World Cup qualifying: The Netherlands plays at Sweden in Group A on Tuesday. Greece is at Gibraltar in Group H on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Geoff Cameron in demand ]

PORTUGAL 5 GIBRALTAR 0

Nani seized the limelight in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence with two goals in Portugal’s first match since beating France in the European Championship final in July for its first major football title.

The friendly in Porto was also Gibraltar’s first game since gaining membership of FIFA in May ahead of World Cup qualifying.

The tiny British overseas territory managed to restrict the sixth-ranked Portuguese to scoring just once in the first half, with Nani netting his first.

The winger was on target again 10 minutes into the second half with a header but it took Portugal until the 73rd to start to build a commanding score. Within six minutes, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, and Pepe all scored.

World Cup qualifying: Portugal is at Switzerland in Group B on Tuesday. Gibraltar hosts Greece in Group H on Tuesday.

Andrew Dampf in Rome and Mike Corder in the Hague, Netherlands contributed to this report.