De Rode Duivels named an extremely attacking squad for Euro 2016 where 5 strikers and 3 attacking midfielders were selected in the 23-man squad for France.
However, suspension and injury to their back-line looks like it could derail the best chance the ‘Golden Generation’ may ever get to reach final at a major international tournament. The Panenka looks at who is most likely to step into the fray.
In the resounding 4-0 last-16 drubbing of Hungary, Thomas Vermaelen picked up his second booking of the tournament meaning he is suspended for the knockout tie in Lille.
Furthermore, Jan Vertonghen suffered a cataclysmic ankle ligament injury in training meaning he is also out. Initially thought to be just a sprain, it has now emerged as damage that has ended the Tottenham Hotspur defender’s participation at Euro 2016, leaving Belgium reeling.
While the European media focused their attention on a thigh injury affecting captain Eden Hazard, it appears that Belgium’s biggest selection worry for when they face Wales could be in defense.
Thibaut Courtois is certain to stay between the sticks behind center-back Toby Alderweireld, who will have Thomas Meunier for company at left back against Wales. Without Vermaelen or Vertonghen though, it leaves two gaping holes in Marc Wilmots’ back four.
Defenders who have already been ruled out of Euro 2016 through injury include Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Lombaerts and Dedryck Boyata. These are the players available to step forward and fill the central defender and right back positions.
The player most likely to fill the Vertonghen shaped void at left-back. Previously he played 90 minutes in Belgium’s final warm-up game, a 3-2 victory over Norway. Also appeared there from the bench in a friendly versus Switzerland in May.
The younger brother of Belgium striker Romelu of the same name, they both progressed through the youth ranks at Anderlecht. The defender now plays with Oostende where he helped them earn promotion to the top tier in 2013.
After the friendly against Norway Belgium boss Marc Wilmots said: “Jordan had a good match but there were some errors that could have consequences against a team like Italy. That’s the top level. You have to learn not to make them but how can I ask a kid from the Belgian league not to make any mistakes?”
Inexperienced but reportedly the most able center back behind Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Vermaelen. He is strongly tipped to start against Wales. Played 90 minutes at right-back in the final warm-up game vs Norway and also the full game at center-back in 1-1 friendly with Finland.
The 21-year-old defender joined Manchester City in 2013 but is yet to make a professional appearance for the English club.
Dubbed as the natural successor to crocked captain Vincent Kompany, Marc Wilmots justified the young defenders inclusion in the Euro 2106 squad by saying, “Vincent and Thomas are prone to injury. We therefore looked at young players with an interesting profile.
Adding: “That’s why I brought Jason Denayer with us, he has the best profile to replace Vincent Kompany. He is fast and allows the team to play and press.”
The left-back started in Belgium’s 2-0 defeat to Italy in their opening group game but was dropped for the following games and hasn’t started a game since. Scored the winner in the victory over Norway after emerging from the bench. He was also handed 30 minutes against Switzerland.
The 30-year-old currently plays for Montreal Impact in the MLS after spending the majority of his career in Belgium between Club Brugge and Standard Liege. The Canada based player is fortunate to be attending the tournament in France with thanks to injuries to other more highly rated defenders.
Before Euro 2016, Wilmots said that Ciman is “a defender capable of occupying several positions.”
Did not play a part in any of Belgium’s warm-up games and is yet to earn his first cap for the national team. Even with so many defensive casualties the 25-year-old is unlikely to make an appearance at the tournament.
Since joining Genk in 2014 the central defender has made 74 appearances for the club. After being handed a professional contract by Eupen in the second tier of Belgian football the youngster made his way to Ludogorets in Bulgaria for a year before returning to Eupen.
Despite a host of other injuries to defenders the inclusion of Kabasele was still met with surprise. Wilmots has described the defenders qualities as “robust” and “fast.” The Belgium boss also said he is “in good shape” and a player who will “fit in well with the group.”