FIFA World Cup 2022: Decoding the squad of Belgium
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has picked a 26-man squad for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup. Ace striker Romelu Lukaku found a calling despite carrying a thigh injury and featuring in only six games for Inter this season. Belgium, who made peace with a third-place finish in 2018, will look to be a notch above this time around. Here we decode Belgium's squad.
Belgium squad: Goalkeepers and defenders
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge) Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Royal Antwerp), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa), Wout Faes (Leicester), Arthur Theate (Rennes), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Timothy Castagne (Leicester)
Belgium squad: Midfielders and forwards
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Amadou Onana (Everton), Youri Tielemans (Belgium), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund) Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Dries Mertens (Galatasaray), Loïs Openda (Lens), Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
Courtois remains the numero uno option
Courtois, who won the best goalkeeper award in the 2018 edition, will want to replicate the same in the upcoming World Cup. He won the 2022 Yashin Trophy for playing a key role in helping Real Madrid dominate the scenes last season. Courtois is nearing 100 appearances for Belgium, having earned 96 caps. Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge) and Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg) are his backups.
Belgium will depend on experience at the back
Belgium mainly play a 3-4-2-1 formation. Zeno Debast, Toby Alderweireld, and Jan Vertonghen are the principle central defenders. Thomas Meunier and Leicester City's Timothy Castagne are two quality full-backs, playing as wing-backs in this system. Yannick Carrasco can offer significance as a wing-back too. Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa), Wout Faes (Leicester), Arthur Theate (Rennes) provide comfort as back-ups in that Belgian defense.
Action lies in Belgium's midfield
Kevin De Bruyne will look to be the creative force for Belgium. He has 12 assists for Manchester City this season. KDB will play further up alongside Eden Hazard and support the number nine. However, he can drop back as well. Defensive midfielder Axel Witsel will bring his experience into play. Amadou Onana, Youri Tielemans, Hans Vanaken, and Thorgan Hazard add depth in ranks.
Belgium lack the firepower upfront
All eyes will be on Romelu Lukaku, who is currently nursing an injury. He is expected to miss the first few games. Fenerbahce's Michy Batshuayi will start the proceedings in his absence. Eden Hazard hasn't played much for Real Madrid, but his presence lifts this Belgium side. Leandro Trossard can be a wildcard, having enjoyed a stellar run for Brighton this season.
Youngsters De Ketelaere and Doku will hope to fit in
21-year-old Charles De Ketelaere will hope to get game time and show his credentials to find those pockets of space as an attacking midfielder. Winger Jeremy Doku will provide the pace and tenacity.
Belgium's Probable XI versus Canada
Belgium play Canada in their opening Group F game on November 24 (12:30 AM IST). Belgium Probable XI (3-4-2-1): Thibaut Courtois; Zeno Debast, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel, Yannick Carrasco; Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard; Michy Batshuayi.