Belgium captain Maarten Martens celebrated a "beautiful thing" in Heerenveen as his team's ten men refused to yield against Israel on Wednesday evening, instead taking three vital Group A points thanks to Kevin Mirallas's 82nd-minute goal.
Although Martens was substituted at half-time - having been booked - to make way for Faris Haroun, he was back on the pitch by the end to join his jubilant team-mates. The fact his side had been a player short for 72 minutes made the 1-0 victory even sweeter. "For team spirit, it is one of the most beautiful things you can have in football – winning with one man down," the 22-year-old told uefa.com. "Mentally we were already strong but this will make us stronger. The first 20 minutes we were the better team and we could play good positions.
Strength in depth
"After the red card it totally changed and we had to adapt. It was difficult because the Israel full-backs were getting forward, but at half-time we changed a little bit and it worked out very well." In the left-sided Martens' absence, substitute Haroun assisted the hard-running Anthony Vanden Borre and Jonathan Blondel in taking the game to Israel, supporting a tireless Mirallas. "We have fresh motivated players of the same level on the bench," he said of the Belgians' strength in depth.
Belgium's next assignment on Saturday is against a Netherlands lineup currently featuring three of his AZ Alkmaar team-mates. "I am looking forward to playing against players that play in my team," he continued. "The Netherlands are a good team. I thought Portugal would be the toughest but we did very well against them [in a 0-0 draw], while Israel were a very strange team, very difficult to beat and the Dutch had problems with them. But we have already seen that in the other group as well, the four teams have the same level."
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