Belgium's 2018 World Cup squad: Who joins Hazard & Lukaku in tournament panel?

Belgium's 2018 World Cup squad: Who joins Hazard & Lukaku in tournament panel?

Belgium will once again take the role of 'dark horses' when they head to the World Cup in Russia this summer.

The Red Devils have long been heralded as the next major international power, with stars like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens tipped to succeed on the international scene.

However, they have flattered to deceive in recent tournaments, and must soon grasp an opportunity if their 'Golden Generation' is not to slip away.

Qualification was smooth – Belgium finished top of Group H, winning nine games and drawing one – and Roberto Martinez's men have a relatively straightforward group, featuring Panama, Tunisia and England.

Belgium's provisional squad of 28 players  was announced on May 21 and the final squad will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Who made Belgium's World Cup squad?

Having announced a 28-man provisional panel for Russia, Martinez will have to disappoint at least five players on the eve of the tournament. Choosing which individuals to leave out won't be easy, particularly considering the wealth of talent that is available to him.

There are currently four goalkeepers named in the Belgium panel, with Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois and Liverpool's Simon Mignolet reasonably assured of their places. Wolfsburg's Koen Casteels and Newcastle United shot-stopper Mats Sels will fight it out for the final spot.

Martinez has named nine defenders, with Tottenham duo Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld joined by Man City captain Vincent Kompany , Paris Saint-Germain's Thomas Meunier and Barcelona centre-back Thomas Vermaelen.

Kevin De Bruyne Belgium

The remaining defenders in the provisional squad are Dedryk Boyata , who helped Celtic to a second successive treble in 2017-18, Lazio left-back Jordan Lukaku , Watford's Christian Kabasele and veteran full-back Laurent Ciman, who recently joined Los Angeles FC.

Star of Man City's Premier League title triumph Kevin De Bruyne is destined to make the final 23-man panel, while Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini brings a physical edge to the squad.

Axel Witsel has been playing in the Chinese Super League, but that hasn't affected his standing and Tottenham's Mousa Dembele will be pushing for a starting place after impressing for Mauricio Pochettino's side this season. Anderlecht's Leander Dendoncker and Monaco's Youri Tielemans inject a youthful flavour into the squad, while West Brom midfielder Nacer Chadli is a surprising inclusion.

In attack, Martinez will be relying on the potent chemistry that has developed between Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens  and Romelu Lukaku, who have been frighteningly clinical in front of goal for their country. Like Witsel, Yannick Carrasco 's international career has not been impacted by his move to China and the former Atletico Madrid man will determined to impress.

Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke have been included in the provisional panel despite concerns over injury and form respectively, while Thorgan Hazard and Adnan Januzaj are also pushing for inclusion, though they are likely to play a back-up role.

Who didn't make the Belgium squad?

Radja Nainggolan Belgium

The highest profile omission from the Belgium squad is Radja Nainggolan, who has been left out purely for tactical reasons, according to Martinez, who travelled to Italy to personally deliver the news to the Roma midfielder.

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As well as Nainggolan, experienced winger Kevin Mirallas has not earned a place in the extended panel, while Burnley's Steven Defour is also absent after suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.

Liverpool striker Divock Origi, who was on loan at Wolfsburg, misses out despite impressing in the Bundesliga. Huddersfield Town striker Laurent Depoitre enjoyed a successful season in the Premier League, but did not do enough to convince Martinez that he merits a place in the squad.

Domestically based players Anthony Limbombe, Thomas Foket and Luis Pedro Cavanda, who play for Anderlecht, Gent and Standard Liege respectively, also miss out.

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