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 By Ian Holyman

Henry played a 'big role' in Belgium World Cup qualification - Martinez

The FC panel debate whether Belgium can win the World Cup or merely prove to be an entertaining side in Russia.

Roberto Martinez has praised the "big role" Thierry Henry played in helping Belgium storm through qualifying for next summer's World Cup.

When Arsene Wenger ended his hopes of coaching Arsenal's under-18 team, feeling Henry could not combine that role and his media duties, the former Arsenal striker accepted a position with Martinez's staff in summer 2016.

Martinez saw his team go unbeaten through qualifying, becoming the first European team to clinch their place at Russia 2018 by winning all but one of their 10 matches, while they scored 43 goals, a tally bettered only by reigning champions Germany.

"Thierry has a big role" Martinez told FIFA. "The quality of his work is impressive, he still has that high demand for excellence that he had when he was a player and which made him one of the best players in the world.

"He also has that know-how and experience from winning a World Cup, and that is invaluable for us as we will have to overcome the mental barriers to do that.

"In the national team, you don't have long with the players, and Thierry helps us maximise the time spent with the players through his quality and his expertise.

"For a forward, for example, to be able to talk to him about his movement in the penalty area is a huge plus."

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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