In the knockout phase, Roberto Martinez aims to get the best out of every Belgium player.

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In the knockout phase, Roberto Martinez aims to get the best out of every Belgium player.

After cruising into the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with a third consecutive win, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez feels his side is ready to take the next step in their pursuit for a major prize.

Belgium defeated Finland 2-0 thanks to an own goal by goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and a late strike from Romelu Lukaku. Finland now has a limited chance of qualifying as one of the best third-placed teams.

Martinez believes his players are showing signs of the kind of form that might propel them higher after coming third at the World Cup and rising to the top of the world rankings.

“This team has been quite consistent over the last five years,” he told Euro2020.com. It’s now about getting everyone to perform at their peak.

“We were very professional and dedicated. We played excellent defense and patiently awaited the opening score. That was always going to be the case. In the first half, we were almost there, but we adapted to a difficult team.”

In a game in which they dominated possession, Belgium never looked in danger of losing control, and Martinez, despite making eight changes, was eager to see some of his key players get additional playing time.

After a season marred by muscle problems, he was particularly happy with Eden Hazard’s performance, saying: “He pushed himself, got into fantastic positions.” He twists right and left, looking free.

“The next phase is to see Eden with that final pass, that goal-scoring shot. I was blown away by his performance.”

Markku Kanerva, Finland’s coach, expressed dissatisfaction with the final result, having anticipated for much of the evening that his team would be able to squeak into one of the qualifying spots.

The Finns battled well, but Hradecky’s own goal, when he palmed a Thomas Vermaelen header into his own net, effectively sealed the Finns’ fate, particularly in light of Denmark’s emphatic win over Russia.

“I’m very proud of the work ethic my players shown today,” Kanerva added. However, you saw Belgium’s quality. (This is a brief piece.)

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