Roberto Martinez broke me down.
The Belgian coach did it again on Friday and won Brazil 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. He played an unprecedented line-up, with several people out of position, another hard-to-reach decision that ultimately turned out to be brilliant for the manager.
Playing great players and reacting slowly When Brazil rallied in the second half and made inexplicable substitutions, he won, of course, because he did.
I have criticized Martinez's decisions since the World Cup, as have many Football authors over this internet. And as the team has now advanced to a semi-final, many people have asked us: Why? Why so much ridicule for a guy who clearly achieves results?
At least twice for me.
One, Belgium has given a generation of players a country that may never see its size again. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Moussa Dembele, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Thibaut Courtois … all generation talents playing around the same age play in the same World Cup team. It rarely happens.
And for a team working with a manager with such a good track it made me nervous. I've been following these Belgian players for a decade, following them from their youth days to today, always wondering if they could put it together for an international tournament. This is their best times, and they have a coach trying to play a crazy attacking formation with midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. Well, it's kind of personal. I can not get Martinez to ruin my lovely Belgian boys for me.
Two, and that's the big one, much of the shit that Martinez makes makes no sense. Belgium, having seen their team on paper and knowing that their players have seen them play for top clubs, made sense as a team. They had a fairly easy-to-identify line-up that would make sense and exploit all their strengths to have their top 1
Martinez did not use this pretty easy-to-see lineup. He not only took the easy-to-see lineup and made one or two tweaks. He folded the cute snake into an origami goose and then lit the goose.
In all tournaments we had Belgium in a 3-4-3 with De Bruyne in a defensive midfield role and Yannick Carrasco, who is not a winger, as a full-back. Moussa Dembele, a star for Tottenham, was on the bench. The lineup worked against bad teams and Belgium almost lost to Japan 2-0.
He defended against Brazil with a 4-3-3 defensive, with the often-hated Nacer Chadli as the central midfielder who then turned aggressively to a 3-4-3, with Chadli exploding wide and right-back Meunier into midfield came. Kevin De Bruyne, an attacking midfielder who played as a World Cup midfielder in a bad position, was now a center-forward. Romelu Lukaku was suddenly a real winger, for whatever. If you do not follow football and it all sounds confusing to you, do not worry, I followed football all my life and it was all just as confusing for me.
It was at this point, with this batshit lineup, and Belgium led a 2-0 lead against Brazil, that I threw up my hands. Nothing Martinez did made sense to someone with a football brain, and it worked. That was Inspector Clouseau. The man who knew too little. SIR. EFFING BEAN.
Moussa Dembele on the bench, with Marouane Fellaini above him? For sure. The years I've watched these two football matches have pretty clearly shown me that Dembele is the Fellaini player twice, but who should I ask Mr. Martinez?
Fellaini played the game of his life on Friday. Of course he did it. Nacer Chadli, someone I did not fully understand why he was even on the list, started with Yannick Carrasco, Dembele and Mertens … and played crazy.
Fellaini and Chadli made this one game after scoring a goal against Belgium in their 3–2 comeback in Belgium, a game they could not win but still win. Then they came out of the position as part of a wild hybrid cast with four guys and they probably beat the tournament's most talented team.
Roberto Martinez, I apologize. I'm just a football watcher and you are Galaxy Brain. Some say you have been saved by a group of generations, but I will not do that. You are the genius. You are as smart as a fox. They tricked me and tricked the Brazilian coach Tite and tricked the Brazilian players, and you may even have tricked your own players, who were then cheated out of their way, and tricked their opponents. Correct?
I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I TALK ABOUT EVERYONE, BOBBY. YOU BROKEN ME. Maybe I do not know football. Maybe my whole life is a lie. Maybe I should start watching CURLING. A curling writer, yes. I CAN OWN THIS BEAT. THIS IS A SPORTS I CAN UNDERSTAND. IT IS ONLY ICE AND ROCKS, RIGHT? How hard can it be? IN THIS SPORT, AT LEAST NACER FREAKING CHADLI DOES NOT TAKE AND MAKE IT INTO A HYBRID CM / WINGBACK AND WORK AGAINST BRAZIL . IT IS ONLY STONES AND ICE. STONES. AND. ICE CREAM.
Ahem. Anyway, Belgium will win the World Cup. I am convinced of that now. They will play a W-M formation with Thorgan Hazard and not with his brother Eden. The starting left-back will be a DVD copy of the film in Bruges. I, Nate Scott, will start in goal because Roberto Martinez will be teasing of the thought. That happens, everyone. To get on board.