FA Cup: Roberto Martinez on how Wigan ethos can help Belgium win World Cup

Media playback is not supported on this device

Top 50 FA Cup goals: Ben Watson's winner for Wigan

On the face of it, winning the World Cup seems a very different challenge to negotiating a successful FA Cup campaign but, as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez explains, there are actually several similarities.

No manager has ever won both competitions, but Martinez will attempt to become the first this summer when he leads the highly rated Red Devils in Russia.

And part of his plan involves the same combination of strategy and psychology that saw him steer Wigan to a famous victory over Manchester City in the 2013 FA Cup final.

Martinez joins Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Joleon Lescott in the BBC studio at the DW Stadium on Monday, as the Latics look to upset the runaway Premier League leaders again in a rematch of that tie.

In a wide-ranging interview, the Spaniard discusses that Wembley win, why it is so good to work with City's Belgium playmaker Kevin de Bruyne, and how Romelu Lukaku's first season at Manchester United has been the making of him.

'De Bruyne different to any other midfielder'

Martinez is looking forward to watching De Bruyne play for City against the League One leaders. The 26-year-old midfielder has played a central role in his side's stellar season.

"In the past two seasons, Kevin has grown game by game," Martinez told BBC Sport. "Now he has got an influence that is a joy to watch.

"The way he is affecting games in such a consistent manner makes him very different to any other midfielder at a top team in Europe at the moment. Hopefully he can win trophies from now until the end of the season, because he deserves them."

Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany celebrate Manchester City's FA Cup Fourth Round win over Cardiff
Martinez hopes to have De Bruyne and Kompany with him in Russia this summer

Defender Vincent Kompany, another Belgian at City, has had a more stop-start campaign because of a troublesome calf injury but Martinez is still banking on having his captain with him in Russia.

"The major factor with Vincent is his mental strength," Martinez said. "He has been through some very difficult moments as a footballer in the past few seasons but he keeps surprising everyone by coming back.

"Every time he is out on the pitch, his intelligence and presence makes it seem like he has never been away."

'Lukaku has embraced responsibility at Man Utd'

Another Manchester-based Belgian Martinez knows well is United's £90m striker Romelu Lukaku, whom he used to manage at Everton.

After 11 goals in his first 10 games for United, Lukaku has not maintained such a prolific scoring rate, but Martinez says he has noticed the 24-year-old making big progress in other areas of his game.

"When you play for the biggest clubs in the world, you have to accept criticism as well as praise and just get on with things," Martinez said.

"Rom has always done that. He is an incredible goalscorer and he is still very young. This has been a really important chapter in his career.

"He started his new chapter with United with flying colours and made almost a record-breaking start there but, from that point onwards, you just knew that expectations were going to be sky-high.

"At United, a striker almost has to score in every game and be part of a winning team every week, and that is something Rom had to embrace.

"This season, it has felt like every call-up we have had, he has been more mature and keen to learn from the situation he is in now.

"I have seen a huge increase in the level of his maturity, which will help him enormously. He wants to take on the responsibility of being the United player who carries the most expectation of helping the team get a positive result."

Roberto Martinez worked with Romelu Lukaku at Everton before becoming Belgium boss
Martinez was a player and manager in English football for 21 years, including three years as Everton boss, where he worked with Lukaku. He now lives in Belgium but is still a frequent visitor to watch Premier League football as 15 of the 34 players he has called up for Belgium since the start of 2017 play for top-flight clubs in England

'Golden generation will set high standards for themselves'

The kind of expectation to perform that Lukaku faces at United is similar to that which the rest of the Belgium side will face this summer.

Belgium, who are in the same group as England, Panama and Tunisia, are ranked fifth in the world and will be among the favourites in Russia.

Martinez, who took charge in August 2016, feels his players will be able to deal with that pressure, and says they will be setting high standards for themselves.

"Yes, this is a golden generation, because we have a group of very talented players who have important roles at very demanding teams at club level," he said.

"But everything comes down to the inner pressure. You need to create a pressure internally by setting certain standards that the players need to meet, and I think that brings more pressure than anything that is created from the outside.

"That is what we have got in the Belgium squad. Our players have been together for a while now - they really enjoy representing the Red Devils, they like each other's company and they take huge responsibility for their roles.

"They have their own expectations. The expectations from the outside are something we have to accept but they should never affect what we want to do on the pitch."

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez gives instructions to Eden Hazard
Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard is one of Belgium's key players

'Be chameleonic' - why all teams have to adapt

If Belgium are to reach the World Cup final in Moscow on 15 July, they will have to get their tactics right, as well as their psychology, whoever they face along the way.

Martinez had a knack of winning on the big occasion during his time at Wigan - as well as beating City at Wembley, they overcame Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal while he was in charge.

Wigan were underdogs for those games but they also had to deal with being the favourites during their FA Cup run in 2013, when they overcame Bournemouth, Macclesfield, Huddersfield and Millwall - all of whom were from a lower division.

"I think you need to be a very strong team mentally before you can follow it by trying to find a tactical structure that can help you play against anyone," Martinez said.

"In the FA Cup you have to be ready to adapt to the opposition and the different challenges that the conditions can bring.

"It is the same at a World Cup, when things can change very quickly and you have to adjust to that situation. You go from being the underdog to the favourite or vice-versa and it forces you to be very chameleonic in order to adapt.

"When you face those different challenges, you can use them as reasons why you cannot perform but I am always the opposite - it is an opportunity to adapt better than the opposition and take an advantage over them."

Beating City to win the first trophy in Wigan's history was the best example of that, and Martinez is looking forward to reliving that day when the two teams meet again on Monday.

"It gives us the opportunity to look back on a beautiful story for everyone connected to Wigan," Martinez said.

"We knew we had to be perfect on the day of the final, and I think we managed to get the team right. They were relaxed but they knew their responsibility on the pitch - and that is the key for any team to succeed."

Ben Watson heads Wigan's winner in the FA Cup final in 2013 against Man City
Ben Watson heads Wigan's winner in the FA Cup final in 2013 against Man City

'World Cup finals bring a different responsibility'

After reaching the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Euro 2016 in France, Belgium are looking for a similar breakthrough to the one made by France in 1998, and Spain in 2008, where a talented team takes the leap to winning their nation's first global honour.

As part of that French team who won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, Martinez's number two, Thierry Henry, already has experience in how to make that transition - but Martinez thinks his players are ready too.

Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry (left) won the FA Cup twice as an Arsenal player

"Obviously Thierry's own experiences as a player will help us a lot, and he knows exactly where we want to get to," Martinez said.

"But, as a team, now we will have been together for almost two years by the time the World Cup starts.

"Our qualifying campaign, where we stayed unbeaten and became the first European team to qualify, showed the work we are doing to meet the challenge we face.

"Now we have to focus on the finals, which bring a different responsibility."

Belgium's best performance at a World Cup came in 1986, when they lost to eventual winners Argentina in the semi-finals.

Five different countries have won the tournament since 1998 - and Martinez thinks Belgium have to head for Russia believing they can become the sixth.

"When you go to a World Cup, I think only the nations who have won it previously seem to have the expectation of winning it again," he added.

"A team like Germany, for example, always seem to have that - they are expected to win every game, which is part of the reason their record is so good

"That shows how powerful the mental side of the game is with a team at any level. If you have a winning mentality then straight away you become a better team."

Top Stories