Martinez learns little in Dublin

By | March 27, 2022

Thierry Henry – the Irish remembered him well

By selecting players with fewer than 50 caps for the two friendlies (vs. Ireland and Burkina Faso), Roberto Martinez undoubtedly pleased those such as Kevin de Buyne and Romelu Lukaku, but he hardly learnt anything that could be useful for the World Cup.

The side he sent out in Dublin on Saturday mostly consisted of players he knows well, perhaps too well, and only Arthur Theate, Charles De Ketelaere and – to an extent – Alex Saelemaekers, could be said to be auditioning.

In the event, De Ketelaere and Saelemaekers look unlikely to get parts in the big production, while Bologna’s Theate might be called back for a future read-through.

On the positive side, Hans Vanaken, Leander Dendoncker and Michy Batshuayi look likely to make the cut in the final 23, but then that always seemed the case. Batshuayi is an enigma; 23 goals in 40 appearances for Belgium but he’s never nailed down a regular place for a club in one of the major leagues.

Wolves’ Dendoncker was impressive in midfield and showed his adaptability by dropping back into the back three when Thaete was replaced. He’s the kind of utility player that coaches like.

On Tuesday, Belgium play Burkina Faso at Anderlecht’s ground. Doubtless, Martinez will send out a younger side. Stuttgart’s Orel Mangala had a few minutes on Saturday night and it’s to be hoped he starts next time. And personally speaking, it would be good to see more of Adnan Januzaj.

Team that started against Ireland: Mignolet – Theate, Boyata, Denayer – Dendoncker, Vanaken, Tielemans, T. Hazard – Saelemaekers, De Ketelaere, Batshuayi.

Subs: Foket (good), Mangala (promising), Benteke & Januzaj (a few minutes)


Goalkeepers: Thomas Kaminski; Simon Mignolet, Davy Roef and Matz Sels. Defenders: Sebastiaan Bornauw, Dedryck Boyata, Jason Denayer, Wout Faes, Arthur Theate and Siebe Van der Heyden. Wing Backs: Thomas Foket; Thorgan Hazard and Alexis Saelemaekers. Midfielders: Leander Dendoncker, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Orel Mangala, Youri Tielemans and Hans Vanaken. Forwards: Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Charles De Ketelaere, Adnan Januzaj, Divock Origi, Leandro Trossard, Yari Verschaeren and Dante Vanzeir.

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