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Martinez omits Nainggolan as Hazard leads Belgium’s preliminary team


Belgium’s football national team new head coach Roberto Martinez gives a press conference on August 4, 2016 at the KBVB-URBSFA Belgian football union headquarters in Brussels.Former Everton and Wigan coach Spaniard Roberto Martinez has been given the enviable task of leading Belgium’s multi-talented national side to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, The Belgian federation said on August 3, 2016. The 43-year-old Spaniard known for building flair sides with a penchant for attack, takes over from the unpopular coach Marc Wilmots, who was fired after a quarter-finals elimination by Wales at Euro 2016./ AFP PHOTO / BELGA / VIRGINIE LEFOUR / Belgium OUT

Belgium has released a preliminary 28-man shortlist for the upcoming FIFA World Cup.The Red Devils will fancy their chances in Group G among the likes of England, Panama, and Morocco. They are undoubtedly favorites to top the group but with football’s unpredictability always lurking around, their best performances will be required.

The football hemisphere was thrown into a frenzy when news of Radja Nainggolan’s omission surfaced. The 30-year-old midfielder enjoyed a stellar season for AS Roma and was subsequently adjudged their best player of the season for his contributions to the side enjoying a third-place finish in Serie A and reaching the UEFA Champions League semis.

Nevertheless, according to Belgium’s head coach, Roberto Martinez, the decision to leave the midfielder out was purely a tactical call as contrary to suggestions that a bad air exists between the pair.


“Radja is a top player,” Martinez told a news conference, acknowledging Nainggolan’s prowess. “I don’t think Radja is a player to be used in a small role. The reason that Radja’s not in the squad is purely a tactical decision,” he added.

With regards to the said tactics, Belgium is expected to sail through Group G with very little trouble and so be able to make it past the quarterfinal stage considering their squad depth. Anything short of that will be dubbed as an underachievement.Goalkeeping pair Matz Sels and Koen Casteels could mark their official debuts for the Belgium team, should they be selected among the final 23-man squad.

Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, and Moussa Dembele form part of the side’s most experienced group. Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel have also been named in the preliminary squad list.

In the full squad are goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels and Koen Casteels.The defenders are Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Leander Dendoncker, Laurent Ciman, Christian Kabasele, Vincent Kompany, Jordan Lukaku, Thomas Meunier, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen.

The midfielders are Yannick Carrasco, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Dries Mertens, Youri Tielemans and Axel Witsel.The forwards are Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku.

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