Roberto Martinez unveiled this Thursday noon his selection for the World Cup in Qatar, which will begin on November 20 and that the Devils will begin three days later, against Canada.
The biggest question mark was Romelu Lukaku. The top scorer in the history of the Devils will indeed be present despite the doubts that still hang over his state of form. “We will have several discussions with the staff and Romelu over the next few days to see if it is appropriate to keep him in the 26 before the first game.” As a reminder, the coach can modify his list until the day before the entry into the running of the Devils.
Among the coach’s other strong choices are the presence of Theate, Debast, Doku, Openda and Mertens and a list of four potential replacements, made up of Denayer, Heynen, Lukebakio and Saelemaekers.
“It’s hard to leave some players at home, guys who have been in the squad for a long time”conceded Roberto Martinez. “The hardest decision for me is to remove Dedryck Boyata from this list, given his investment in the national team in recent years. I had the opportunity to speak to him about this decision, it is part of my job. It’s always nice to tell someone that they’ve been selected, but it’s much harder to announce that they haven’t been selected.” And ensure that Zeno Debast is taken for “his current qualities and not for his potential.”
The coach also mentioned the case of Loïs Openda, one of the (small) surprises on his list: “Openda has a very interesting profile because it is different from those of Lukaku and Batshuayi. He offers a totally new option for a player who takes up space, puts himself completely at the service of the collective.”
The coach then renewed the comparison between Marouane Fellaini and Amadou Onana, also selected: “His physical impact and particular profile will come in handy, especially given his development in the Premier League in recent months.”
The federal coach was asked about the presence of Dries Mertens, in decline since leaving Naples for Galatasaray: “It was not a difficult decision to keep him in the group given his experience with the Devils. I am also very happy to see him gaining playing time at Galatasaray, where he was sometimes relegated to the bench with Naples.”
Same question for Charles De Ketelaere, who does not convince in Milan: “His profile is precious, his ability to play between the lines… We also need to add guys who have less experience in the group to have a balance between experience and enthusiasm, passion. It’s true that Charles has been playing less with Milan lately, but he’s still playing for the Italian champions…”
Jeremy Doku is also reminded: “When we talk about him, we necessarily do it with a smile. He has a unique profile, capable of setting fire to any match. We will follow his physical development hoping to be able to give him an important role. But he is at a satisfactory physical level despite his low playing time lately.”
Finally, the case of Eden Hazard was discussed: “His talent is clear and his experience will be invaluable. He is more involved than ever and works very hard. Our job now is to get him ready for the World Cup in terms of playing time and pace.” The Madrilenian should therefore be established against Egypt in the only preparation match, Thursday, November 18.
The list of 26 Red Devils selected for the World Cup:
Guardians: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Koen Casteels
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Zeno Debast, Jan Vertonghen, Leander Dendoncker, Wout Faes, Arthur Theate
Midfielders and fullbacks: Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, Amadou Onana, Hans Vanaken, Kevin De Bruyne, Thomas Meunier, Timothy Castagne, Yannick Carrasco, Thorgan Hazard
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Michy Batshuayi, Charles De Ketelaere, Jeremy Doku, Dries Mertens, Lois Openda, Leandro Trossard
Reservists: Jason Denayer, Alexis Saelemaekers, Bryan Heynen and Dodi Lukabekio