Belgium are determined to finish third in the World Cup to go some way to making up for the disappointment of exiting at the semi-final stage, according to manager Roberto Martinez.
The Belgians were beaten 1-0 by France in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, unable to come back from Samuel Umtiti’s header from a corner six minutes into the second half.
Never quite at their best, Belgium will have to pick themselves up for Saturday’s play-off for bronze when they will meet the loser of Wednesday’s semi-final between England and Croatia.
Win that encounter – the Saint Petersburg Stadium will again play host – and Belgium would record their best result at a World Cup, surpassing the previous mark set some 32 years ago.
“The disappointment is huge,” Martinez told reporters afterwards. “It’s a very sad dressing room right now. I don’t want any of my players to be frustrated and disappointed. It’s a difficult emotion to manage: you’re disappointed because you lose the semi-final, and it’s very difficult to see the opportunity of playing another game as a positive.
“We need to regroup and recover and see the opportunity. To try to finish third in the World Cup doesn’t happen often. The only time it happened in Belgian football was in 1986, when we finished fourth.
“We need to understand it’s an important game, but I accept it’s very difficult after a game with the emotions we had today. When you had the ambition of getting to the final, it’s tough individually and collectively to prepare for the next game.”
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Against France, Martinez tweaked his line-up slightly from the one that defeated Brazil 2-1 in the quarter-final. With Thomas Meunier suspended, Mousa Dembele came into midfield, with Nacer Chadli shifting to the right flank.
Dembele endured a difficult evening before being substituted not long in the second half, while Kevin de Bruyne did not exert his usual control until he was moved into a more central role. For the most part, striker Romelu Lukaku was deprived of service.
“I didn’t see France running away with the game,” Martinez said. “It came down to a corner kick. That’s why I don’t think the performance came down to individuals.
“It was a tight game. There weren’t many big moments ... the difference between defeat and winning was just one dead-ball situation. We controlled their counter-attacks. We had the ball, but have to give credit to the way France defended, and we couldn’t find that little bit of magic in front of goal.”