Veterans Dries Mertens and Axel Witsel were left out of the new Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco after selecting 24 players today, Friday, to face Sweden in the European Football Championship qualifiers, and then Germany in a friendly this month.

Mertens, 35, and Wetsel, 33, won 239 international matches together and were part of the golden generation of the national team that did not live up to the expectations of the World Cup and European Championships in the past decade.

Tedesco, who succeeded Roberto Martinez, begins a new era with Belgium after the humiliating exit from the group stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

After the failure, captain Eden Hazard, defender Toby Alderweireld and substitute goalkeeper Simon Mignolet announced international retirement, but defender Jan Vertonghen (35 years), who has played the most international matches in Belgium (145 matches), kept his place.

“It’s not about age,” Tedesco told a news conference on Friday, indicating that the door would remain open for midfielder Witsel, who has not played regularly for Atletico Madrid this season.

He added: I met him in Madrid a few weeks ago and called him yesterday to explain my decision. It was not an easy choice. He gave a lot to the Red Devils and the door is not closed to him and I informed him of that. Now we want to try new players and test their abilities.

Despite this, Southampton’s rising midfielder Romeo Lafia is the only fresh face in the squad.

Mertens has been ruled out for lack of fitness, while Michy Batshuayi and Youri Tielemans are injured.

Belgium begins its European Championship 2024 qualifiers against Sweden next Friday, then faces Germany away from home on the 28th of this month.

Tedesco did not specify Hazard’s successor to wear the armband.

The lineup was as follows:

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Quinn Castells (Wolfsburg), Thomas Kaminski (Blackburn Rovers), Matz Sales (Strasbourg).

Defenders: Sebastian Borno (Wolfsburg), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Zino Debast (Anderlecht), Artur Tate (Rennes), Foot Weiss (Leicester City).

Midfielders: Amadou Onana (Everton), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Charles de Catelier (Milan), Romeo Lafia (Southampton), Uriel Mangala (Nottingham Forest), Dennis Pratt (Leicester City), Alexis Salmakers (Milan).

Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Luis Obenda (Lance), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Leandro Trossard (Arsenal), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin).

By admin