international football

Belgium hand coach Roberto Martinez two-year contract extension ahead of World Cup

A third member of his staff, Frenchman Thierry Henry, who has been linked to Arsenal, could leave to take charge of a club

Coach Roberto Martinez, whose contract was due to finish at the end of the World Cup, has been handed a two-year extension, the Belgian football federation announced on Friday. The news comes two days before Martinez reveals his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia.

“Since his appointment in August 2016, the federation has enjoyed a positive, professional and honest working relationship with Roberto Martinez,” the federation said in a press release. Two of the Spaniard’s assistants, Englishman Graeme Jones and Spanish goalkeeping coach Inaki Bergara, should follow suit. A third member of his staff, Frenchman Thierry Henry, who has been linked to Arsenal, could leave to take charge of a club.

Martinez, who previously managed Swansea, Wigan and Everton, replaced Marc Wilmots immediately after Belgium were eliminated by Wales in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016. The Spaniard adopted a back three, which allowed him to deploy the attacking trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens together just behind centre forward Romelu Lukaku.

It worked a treat as Belgium stormed through their World Cup qualifying group, dropping just two points in 10 matches and finishing nine points clear of second-placed Greece. At the World Cup, Belgium are in Group G and will play Panama (on June 18 in Sochi), Tunisia (23 June, Moscow) and England (28 June, Kaliningrad).

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