Tonight the Belgium U21 squad face Cyprus at Leuven. It’s their first match in the long road towards qualification for the 2015 U21 European championships in the Czech Republic. In the summer, the U21 squad looked rather weak but in the last few months with the emergence of players like Denis Praet, Massimo Bruno, Thorgan Hazard and Junior Malanda, things are starting to look more promising.
Unfortunately, hours before the kick-off, two Standard players – Ibrahima Cissé and Michy Batshuayi – were sent home for disciplinary reasons. Batshuayi has a bit of previous as he was at Anderlecht as a youngster but they decided he was a bit too much trouble to keep.
The squad includes six players from Anderlecht, including Praet, Bruno and a couple of players out on loan. Tonight’s team should feature Koen Casteels of Hoffenheim in goal. He was Thibaut Courtois’ understudy, for the one season Courtois had at Genk, The defence could include a couple from Anderlecht, Jordan Lukaku – brother of the more famous Romelu – and Michael Heylen, who might well be fast-tracked into the Anderlecht first team next season.
The midfield will be anchored by Malanda, who was the subject of a 6 million euro bid by Fulham in January, together with Hannes Van der Bruggen, who has captained Gent and is remarkably still only 19. In front of them there will be any three from Bruno, Praet, Hazard and Maxime Lestienne. All four have had excellent seasons, with perhaps Praet fading the most in recent weeks due to his lack of body strength after playing almost a whole season for Anderlecht’s first team.
In attack, it’ll now be Igor Vetokele who moved to FC Copenhagen from Cercle Brugge after just one season and is now learning his trade in Denmark.
Manchester United’s Marnick Vermijl is missing from the squad and I really don’t know why.
Keepers: Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim), Colin Coosemans (Waasland-Beveren), Matz Sels (Lierse)
Defenders: Ibrahima Cissé (Standard), Dino Arslanagic (Standard), Laurens De Bock (Club Brugge), Bruno Godeau (Zulte-Waregem), Jordan Lukaku (Anderlecht), Jonathan Vervoort (FC Eindhoven), Michael Heylen (Anderlecht), Pierre-Yves Ngawa (Sint Truiden)
Midfield: Paul-José Mpoku (Standard), Ibrahima Cisse (Standard), Hannes Van Der Bruggen (Gent., Massimo Bruno (Anderlecht), Dennis Praet (Anderlecht), Maxime Lestienne (Club Brugge), Hannes Van der Bruggen (Gent), Thorgan Hazard (Zulte-Waregem), Junior Malanda (Zulte-Waregem), Brice Ntambwe (Mons), Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (AS Monaco), Paul-José Mpoku (Standard)
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Standard), Igor Vetokele (FC Copenhagen), Dylan De Belder (Mons)