Roberto Martínez upbeat as Belgium’s old guard have final tilt at major title

Vaunted golden generation hope to slay ghosts but De Bruyne and Witsel are unavailable for opening test against Russia

It is almost three years since Roberto Martínez, offering a positive analysis as always but failing to mask his disappointment, sat in the media marquee outside Gazprom Arena and bemoaned the fine margins that had eluded his Belgium side. “We couldn’t find that bit of magic in front of goal, that bit of luck,” he said. “But I’m so proud of the players. If you’re going to lose, you lose giving everything you’ve got.”

Belgium had not quite been good enough in their World Cup semi-final against France. There was no shame in that but it meant the exhaustively vaunted golden generation were a significant step closer to becoming the subject of a thousand “nearly men” essays a few years down the line. Now the old guard among them have what feels like one last tilt at a major tournament and, given the location of their Euro 2020 opener, an early opportunity to slay any ghosts that lingered after their departure from Russia.

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