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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Playing 'favourites' Brazil 'a dream match' for Belgium, says Roberto Martinez

Spaniard drops hint that Marouane Fellaini may be used from the start in World Cup quarter-final match in Kazan

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez says Brazil are favourites when the two sides meet in Kazan on Friday in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Sergio Perez / Reuters
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez says Brazil are favourites when the two sides meet in Kazan on Friday in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Sergio Perez / Reuters

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has described Friday's World Cup quarter-final against Brazil as a "dream match" for his players.

Martinez saw his side rally from the brink of elimination to snatch a last-gasp 3-2 win over Japan in the last 16 on Monday, booking a meeting with the five-time World Cup winners.

Martinez has so far seen his side win all four of their games in Russia, scoring 12 goals with only three conceded to top Group G ahead of England. Despite the perfect record, the Spaniard said Brazil go into the match in Kazan as favourites.

"These two teams are constructed to score and to win matches. Against Brazil, it will not be about ball possession, but what you do with it. That's what this World Cup is all about," Martinez told Belgian media on Wednesday.

"We know what we are capable of but Brazil are the favourites, putting us into a different role," he added.

"But it's a dream match for our players, they were born to play in a match like this. Naturally we want to win but we are not expected to and that is an important difference."

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At times in Rostov-on-Don, Belgium looked hamstrung by Japan's pressing tactics and needed more than an hour to unshackle themselves and set about a dramatic come-from-behind victory after falling 2-0 down.

For Friday's match, the tactics might be simpler.

"Against a team like Brazil, you must attack and defend with 11 players. We are not talking about a system but understanding what we must do when we have possession," Martinez said.

"I don't think it will be a game with many secrets. We have to defend as well as we can and then cause them pain when we have the ball. It can be that simple and this squad is ready for that."

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The former Everton manager hinted that Marouane Fellaini, who scored an equalising header after being introduced as a second-half substitute against Japan, could be in line for a start against Brazil, with the midfielder's physical attributes a major reason for Belgium reaching the last eight.

"As a coach I have a lot of options with this team but I know in my head what I want to do. We will need power," he said in a hint that the physical presence of the Manchester United player might be deployed from the beginning.

"If we show the same mentality as we did on Monday, we have a big chance."

Belgium play in a second successive World Cup quarter-final, looking to reach the semi-finals for the second time after they advanced to the last four in Mexico 32 years ago.

"We have worked hard over two years for this and we are as ready as we ever can be. We've won all our games, everyone has played and we've scored 12 times.

"The game against Japan gave us a big boost," he said.

"There is something special about this squad. If we play well, we can create a lot of chances. But there is no margin for error. If we give Brazil a chance, they will take it. I think it will be the match of the tournament."

The winner of the tie will face either France or Uruguay in Saint Petersburg on July 10.