Tonight’s friendly with Colombia and Tuesday’s against Japan will give a chance to two or three players – most notably Thomas Meunier, Jelle Vossen and Radja Nainggolan – who could have a chance of breaking into the squad to go to Brazil. However, Marc Wilmots is extremely loyal and only a couple of places at most are likely to be up for grabs.
Despite players such as Thomas Vermaelen, Kevin De Bruyne and Nacer Chadli, struggling to get regular games with their clubs, Wilmots will want to stick with those who got him to Brazil. He’s on record as saying that he would be happy if they played about 60% of their matches in the season and secretly he’ll be hoping that some of them go on loan if they don’t get much playing time with their current clubs. Here’s my view on the likely squad for Brazil.
Team to face Colombia
Wilmots said that everyone available – with the possible exception of reseerve keeper Koen Casteels – will get some playing time over the course of the two friendlies. As for tonight’s game with Colombia, Vincent Kompany and Thibaut Courtois will be missing through injury, although Wilmots had already said Simon Mignolet would start in both friendlies. In addition, Daniel Van Buyten has the flu and there is a slight doubt about Thomas Vermaelen. The main interest is in the selection of Club Brugge’s Thomas Meunier, aged 22 and a winger converted into full-back by previous coach Juan Carlos Garrido. A couple of good performances could see Meunier overtake Anderlecht’s Guillaume Gillet for the position of back-up right back to Toby Alderweireld. Gillet’s position is probably the only position in the 23 man-squad that is seriously under threat.
Here’s the likely team tonight, together with the bench:
Mignolet; Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen (captain), Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne (or Defour); Mirallas (or De Bruyne), Benteke, Hazard.
Bench: Casteels, Pocognoli, Ciman, Simons, Nainggolan, Mertens, Lukaku, Dembele, Vossen
U21s looking for success in Serbia
Tomorrow night will see a more interesting game when the U21s play in Serbia against a side that will contain Manchester City’s Mastija Nastasic, Anderlecht’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Benfica’s Lazar Marković. The Belgian U21 side is strong on paper with such names as Thorgan Hazard, Dennis Praet and Michy Batshuayi.Another youngster, Monaco’s Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco is having a great season and was the man of the match when Belgium won in Italy. However, Wilmots has recently said that the youngsters would have to prove themselves in the U21s – presumably over a period of time – before getting a call-up to the senior side. That message was somewhat confused when he confirmed that 17 year-old Zakaria Bakkali (since injured) would be in the squad to face Colombia and Japan despite doing little in recent weeks.
Squad for Serbia-Belgium (U21 European Qualifier)
Last time out, the U21 squad were defeated 1-0 at home to Italy. They have a lot of attacking strength but are prone to defensive lapses. Batshuayi will undoubtedly be watched by a few scouts; Marc Degryse, now a pundit, recently said the young Standard Liege striker was more complete than either Christian Benteke or Romelu Lukaku but that there were questions about his attitude. Watch this space.
U21 squad vs. Serbia: Coosemans, Defourny; Vermijl, Arslanagic, Godeau, Cissé, De Bock, Engels, Mechele ; Malanda, Bruno, Ferreira-Carrasco, Mpoku, Ntanbwe, Praet, Tielemans, Van Der Bruggen, Thorgan Hazard: Batshuayi, Vetokele.