Belgium coach Robert Martinez believes Kevin de Bruyne has not received enough praise for his performances at the World Cup so far.
The Manchester City star has been deployed in a deeper midfield role for Belgium than he usually plays for his club, with some suggesting it inhibits his creativity.
De Bruyne supplied one assist in two group stage matches against Panama and Tunisia before being rested in Thursday’s 1-0 win over England that took Belgium through as Group G winners.
Kevin de Bruyne deserves more praise for his displays for Belgium during the World Cup, according to his coach Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez guided Belgium into the World Cup last-16 as winners of their group
They now play Japan in their last-16 tie in Rostov on Monday and Martinez believes De Bruyne deserves more appreciation.
‘I think Kevin de Bruyne has been underestimated in this World Cup so far,’ he said.
‘When you’re looking at his contribuition in our team, it’s one of those contributions that is a deciding contribution. He gels everything together.
‘He allows the front players to be in great positions. He’s essential in the way that we want to press and defend, defend quickly and defend high.
‘I think Kevin de Bruyne has been a top performer who hasn’t been highlighted yet, and is essential for the way we want to play.
De Bruyne (second right) was one of many Belgium first-team players rested during their win over England in Kaliningrad on Thursday night
De Bruyne speaks with Manchester City team-mate Fabian Delph during Thursday’s match
‘Now he is 27, for two years he has been at an outstanding level, and probably in the last 16 months he has been at the highest level of his career.
‘And I think he’s brought those standards into our work in the national team.
‘His influence has been, straight away, that of a demanding winner, which is essential in any football team.’
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