The world’s #1 ranked National Football team was one of the first countries to announce their 26-man squad for the European Championship.
Belgium have been drawn in Group B along with Russia, Denmark and Finland and current manager Roberto Martinez will be looking to capitalize on the talent the Belgian players have, especially with Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard in the squad, as they look to claim their first major title. The men between the posts for Belgium have been consistent over the years and Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid is still their likely #1 to start, but they also have solid options in the wings with Simon Mignolet of Club Brugge and Mats Selz of Strasbourg.
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The Belgian defense is a mixture of experience and the exuberance of youth but it’s perhaps the defense that is the Achilles’ heel and Martinez’s main concern in this squad too. Players like Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Thomas Meunier bring in loads of experience while Jason Denayer of Lyon, Leander Dendonker of Wolves, Timothy Castagne of Leicester add more quality talent to the side. Thomas Vermaelen who plays for Japanese side Vissel Kobe and Dedryck Boyata of Hertha Berlin also made it to the Euros squad. Martinez is perhaps likely to go with Denayer, Alderweireld, and Vertongen playing at the back in his ideal starting XI.
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Martinez’s midfield has been more or less the same for a while with the fulcrum being Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne who has 80 caps for his country already. After brilliant seasons in the Premier League with Leicester City, Youri Tielemans and Dennis Preat both make it into the squad for their first international cup competition. Axel Witsel is another player who has been a crucial part of Roberto Martinez’s side and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder returns from an Achilles injury in January this year. Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir) and Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund) have also been called up again alongside Hans Vanaken of Club Brugge. It will be a tough decision for Martinez to decide who starts but we think he will most likely start with Tielemans and De Bruyne starting in the center of the pitch and Thorgan Hazard or Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid) playing as an attacking left wing back.
Martinez has incredible depth in terms of strikers with players like Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke (both Crystal Palace) on the squad list. Jeremy Doku (Stade Rennes) and Leandro Trossard (Brighton) have also been included in the squad to get more options coming on from the bench. Doku, who was on the wish list of Liverpool in 2018, is an 18-year-old forward whose speed and technique make him an excellent candidate for a super-sub role within this squad that includes the “Golden Generation” of Belgian football. The in-form Romelu Lukaku who has been special for Inter Milan, alongside Real Madrid star and the Belgian captain Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens of Napoli could make for a potent trio up front when they take the field on the 13th of June vs Russia.
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Strasbourg)
Defenders: Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica), Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe)
Midfielders: Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Youri Tielemans (Leicester), Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Dennis Praet (Leicester), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Timothy Castagne (Leicester), Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir)
Forwards: Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
[Image Credit: Belgian Red Devils]