On Monday, Roberto Martinez will name a 28 man-squad (26 plus 2 reserves) for the 2020 Euros. There are unlikely to be too many surprises, with Martinez being happy to depend on the players who performed so well for him in Brazil.
His main concerns are currently around two of his most experienced players, with 216 Caps between them: Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel. Hazard is back on the field for Real Madrid, but he hasn’t played for Belgium since 2019. The number of injuries that he’s suffered since moving to Spain could see him struggle to perform to his best at the Euros.
Witsel is even more uncertain, although Martinez has said that the Borussia Dortmund midfielder will be named in the squad. Out since January with an Achilles tendon injury, Witsel is the man that Belgium depends on to bring security to the team’s midfield, especially in front of an ageing defence. In the event that Witsel doesn’t make the team to face Russia on June 12, Wolves Leander Dendoncker would seem to be man to replace him.
The spine of the Belgium team today consists of Thibaut Courtois, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. Despite Vincent Kompany often having injury issues himself when the major tournaments came around, his absence from the squad nowadays leaves a gaping hole that has not been filled.
Around 25 of the 28 names are pretty much nailed on but there are a lot of fringe players who will be waiting for the nod from Martinez. I can see about 40 players who might think they are in with a shout and some of those who are on the edge of selection include Reims’ defender Thomas Foket, Real Sociedad’s Adnan Januzaj, Başakşehir’s Nacer Chadli, Anderlecht’s young duo Yari Verschaeren and Albert Samba Lokonga, Club Brugge’s Charles De Ketelaere, Crystal Palace’s Michy Batshuayi and Liverpool’s Divock Origi.
Some of those are experienced campaigners who have done little or nothing to warrant selection, some are youngsters who would benefit from the experience, while some are just in the unlucky position of being up against better players. The cultured midfielder De Ketelaere, 20, would be my selection from the younger candidates.
Belgium are unlikely to start favourites for the Euros but hopefully, with a fit Eden Hazard and Witsel, they will give a good account of themselves, in what for several could be their last throw of the dice in a major tournament.