5 Surprise Omissions from the Belgium World Cup Squad
This week, Rode Duivels manager Marc Wilmots announced his preliminary Belgium squad. At first sight, not much seems strange about Wilmots' list: there's Eden Hazard, there's Axel Witsel, and there's Marouane Fellaini, who is still backed by his boss, despite his average season at Manchester United.
But look a little closer and you'll see that a couple of players are missing. Following Wilmots' announcement, we take a look at five surprise omissions from the Belgium World Cup squad.
Neither of manager Marc Wilmot's full-backs play in that position at club level. First-choice right-back Toby Alderweireld, for example, is actually a centre-back.
With that in mind, some extra backup in the right-back position would have made sense, especially since that would allow Wilmots to put Alderweireld in the centre of the defence, should the situation require it. Thomas Meunier could then take Alderweireld's place.
As things stand, however, the Rode Duivels will have to do with Anthony Vanden Borre as a stand-in to Alderweireld, and only the future will tell whether Meunier will be missed.
Perhaps most shockingly, Club Brugge midfielder and Rode Duivel veteran Timmy Simons was left out in the cold.
Simons, who has made 93 appearances for the Rode Duivels, was generally expected to be called up as a stand-in to defensive midfielder Axel Witsel, if not for his massive experience.
During his press conference, Wilmots admitted that the decision to axe Simons had been very difficult to make. But Belgium's young squad had reached maturity, he explained, and they were now up for the task without their midfield veteran.
When the news about Christian Benteke's injury came through, it was clear immediately: Everton's Romelu Lukaku would take Benteke's place in the Rode Duivels' starting XI.
Questions remained, however, about who would take Lukaku's place as reserve striker. Would manager Marc Wilmots go for a player similar to Benteke, or would he consider different factors?
It could be argued Ilombe Mboyo comes close to Benteke's style of play. In that regard, it would have made a lot of sense if Mboyo was included. In the end, however, Wilmots went with Divock Origi, and Mboyo didn't even appear on the reserve list.
Striker Jelle Vossen might not have played during Belgium's qualifying campaign; he was picked for the bench on multiple occasions.
With regular first-choice striker Christian Benteke injured, it was expected this would not change for the World Cup.
Wilmots thought differently, however, and Lille's young striker Divock Origi—a player similar to Benteke—received the nod instead of Vossen, who will have to watch the World Cup on television.
In April 2014, Belgium's regular reserve keeper Koen Casteels broke his shin, and manager Marc Wilmots had to look for a replacement.
Undoubtedly, Sammy Bossut was one of the names that crossed Wilmots' mind. The Zulte Waregem keeper had been putting in some good performances at club level.
But Casteels seems to be recovering quicker than expected, and Wilmots has decided to pick the 1899 Hoffenheim goalkeeper for his preliminary squad despite the injury. Consequently, Bossut is out in the cold.