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Check out Belgium's squad for FIFA World Cup

June 04, 2018 15:58 IST

While few doubt Belgium's attacking prowess, the jury is still out on their defensive organisation.

Belgium have retained injured Vincent Kompany in their final World Cup squad but put fellow defender Laurent Ciman on standby in case the Manchester City skipper is not fit for their opening match in Russia.

Coach Roberto Martinez had been expected to cut his initial 28-man squad by five players on Monday but instead named 24, including Kompany.

Martinez said that World Cup rules allowed the final squad to be named 24 hours before they kick off their campaign. Belgium play Panama on June 18 before facing other Group G opponents Tunisia and England.

The 32-year-old Kompany came off during Belgium's friendly against Portugal on Saturday with an injured groin.

The three-times Premier League winner has suffered from frequent injuries throughout his career and missed out on Euro 2016, although had been playing for his club since the start of this year.

Prior to the World Cup, Belgium play friendly warm-up matches against Egypt on Wednesday and Costa Rica next Monday.

The 24-man squad:

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg).

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur).

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea/Dortmund), Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli).

Standby player: Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles FC).

Factbox on the Belgium national team:

FIFA Ranking: 3 (till June 7)

Previous tournaments: Belgium have appeared in 12 World Cups, with their qualification for the 2014 edition in Brazil coming after a gap of 12 years. The Red Devils lost to Argentina in the quarter-finals in Brazil and their best performance remains their semi-final appearance in 1986 when they fell to the eventual champions, also Argentina.

Coach:

Roberto Martinez: The 44-year-old Spaniard was a surprise successor to Marc Wilmots, who was dismissed after Belgium lost to Wales in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. Martinez was then himself out of work after being sacked by Everton following a frustrating season in which they finished 11th in the Premier League. The former Swansea City manager, however, led unfancied Wigan Athletic to their only FA Cup victory in 2013 when the club beat Manchester City in the final. Under him Belgium cruised to the top of their qualifying group for Russia with an unbeaten record, becoming the first European nation to secure their spot for the 2018 finals.

Key players:

Kevin de Bruyne: The 26-year-old Manchester City midfielder has been the driving force in Pep Guardiola's record-breaking side. De Bruyne's work rate and ability to produce a procession of pinpoint passes took City to a new level, leaving all other title aspirants lagging way behind.

Eden Hazard: The Chelsea playmaker had a similar impact in Chelsea's Premier League-winning campaign a year ago, much like De Bruyne's this time around. Hazard's dribbling and movement, on and off the ball, constantly pose questions for defenders and the 27-year-old can carve through the toughest of defences when in form.

Romelu Lukaku: The 24-year-old striker, who joined Manchester United at the beginning of the season, is a proven goalscorer with more than 100 strikes in the Premier League and is already Belgium's all-time top scorer with 33. With a dazzling midfield featuring De Bruyne and Hazard, Belgium will depend heavily on Lukaku to find the net.

How they qualified: The Red Devils cruised through their qualification group, becoming the first European nation to secure their spot for the finals in Russia. Belgium finished as Group H winners, with nine wins and a draw, scoring 43 goals in the process.

Prospects: Like four years ago in Brazil, Belgium will once again arrive on the world stage in Russia replete with talent who ply their trade in top leagues across Europe. They showed what they are capable of during World Cup qualification. While few doubt their attacking prowess, the jury is still out on their defensive organisation. They will be expected to top Group G which includes England, Panama and Tunisia, but will need a solid backline to ensure the campaign does not end up as another missed opportunity.

Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

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