A victory against Estonia or even a draw against Wales will be enough for the Devils to win their ticket for the World Cup which will be contested in a year, in Qatar. Validating this fifth consecutive participation in a major tournament should therefore only be a formality.
As usual, Roberto Martinez shuffled wide by calling 29 players for these two matches. As feared, Michy Batshuayi and Romelu Lukaku are absent from the selection. They will be replaced by Divock Origi (Liverpool), who returns with the Devils, and Dante Vanzeir (Union), called up for the first time. The USG forward, a strong Pro League leader, is D1A’s third-highest scorer and is the big surprise of the list: “Dante Vanzeir, it’s a bit of the beautiful story of this season, in line with what Felice Mazzù’s Union has achieved. They are leading the championship and Dante has been very consistent in recent weeks. We have two injured strikers. so it’s a great opportunity for him to come and have some experience and fun with the Devils. He usually plays in a two-man attack but we’ll see in the next few days how we can include him in the squad. “, explained Roberto Martinez.
The other new kid, Wout Faes, also benefits from absences: “We have excellent contacts with Vissel Kobe but we have to be understanding: there are only a few games left to play at the end of the season and seeing Thomas Vermaelen cross the planet to join us was complicated. We have to accept this situation and do it. With. As for Zinho Vanheusden, he is still unavailable. Wout is a young central defender who has the advantage of playing absolutely 100% of the playing time with Reims. His level has been very good in recent months in Ligue 1 and he deserves to receive a chance to show up and join the group. “
Benteke set to start against Estonia
Asked about the absence of Lukaku and Batshuayi, Martinez made little secret about the man who will replace them, taking care not to make a definitive announcement: “Every time Christian Benteke is on the pitch, he performs very well. He is physically and mentally ready to take his chance during this rally. Christian has all our confidence to play in the No. 9 position, he has never disappointed.” Twice tenured with the Devils during the Martinez era, Benteke can indeed boast of having scored two doubles: in Russia in March 2017 and against Cyprus two years ago.
“But there might also be an opportunity for Divock Origi”, continues the coach. “He shows he is in good shape every time he gets playing minutes at Liverpool, facing very tough competition. De Ketelaere and even Trossard can also help out at the tip of the attack. I’m not worried about replacing Romelu Lukaku for these two matches. “
During this press conference, it was also about the small forms of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne: “Eden plays little at the moment with Real but he is totally fit and work very hard to find his best level. We know he needs playing time to improve. If this international break with the Devils can help him get back to the club, so much the better. The most important thing is that he is in good health and he is. As for Kevin, I saw him enjoy his rise to the game against Brugge, I think he is hungry for football and is ready to help us during this rally. “
The coach also recalled that qualification for the World Cup was not yet acquired: “Prepare for Qatar? First of all, we must validate our qualification. But it’s true that we are in a good position so we can say that we are starting to prepare for this World Cup, it was already the case. during the Nations League Final Four. Some players will have the opportunity to show off. ” In particular Sambi Lokonga, who is making his return to the selection? “He is progressing faster than expected given the difficulty of adapting to the demands of the Premier League. With the Devils there are stages to be taken but he will receive playing time when the time comes. At the September rally , he had suffered from a small injury which had deprived him of a few minutes. “
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Two new kids and a ghost: Roberto Martinez innovates to take the last step to the World Cup in Qatar