Belgium boss Roberto Martinez defends Manchester City midfielder's role

Grant SmithJul 08, 2018

Honestly, everyday non-World Cup players can play Neymar better than Neymar can play himself.

The much-lauded midfield struggled in the Round of 16 tie against a Japan side who never gave them time on the ball and it was only when Marouane Fellaini came on in the second half to provide some muscle that Belgium took control of the contest.

Coach Roberto Martinez won praise for his substitutions, with both Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli scoring, the latter with practically the last kick of the match.

Many in the male-majority crowd donned Brazil's yellow jersey for the occasion, while families watched from their balconies as the sound of drums and vuvuzelas filled the narrow street.

Lukaku was asked for his views on Neymar, and specifically whether he believed the Brazil forward was an "actor" after his controversial reactions to challenges in the games with Serbia and Mexico.

He told reporters after booking a semi-final berth with France: "Everyone thinks Romelu Lukaku is just about goals, goals, goals, but I want to be seen as an all-rounder".

"These two teams are constructed to score and to win matches".

"But if it's going to be a collective performance from a smart team that knows how to play together and fight for each other, then we have a chance and that's the only thing I care about".

"The system we've been using has been in place for two years and we've improved as individuals", Lukaku said in a prematch news conference.

Belgium are considered underdogs against the five-time champions, who have purred through the tournament so far, but Lukaku says that does not mean they can play without the handbrake.

"I will always remember there was a moment at 0-2 down against Japan that he's the one that is giving a bit of composure, a bit of belief into the group and he's getting everyone to know that we've still got time to get back into the game".

"The way we work sometimes causes a lot of contact, we slow down the field, the accelerations are higher". "[But] I think offensively that we are really strong".

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

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