Three Devilish defenders in the Jupiler Pro League: is that a good thing towards the World Cup? Yes, says former national coach Walter Meeuws: “Everything is better than sitting on the couch.”
One more and they can play cards. No fewer than three defenders from Roberto Martinez’s permanent selection chose to return to Belgium this summer. After Toby Alderweireld (Antwerp) and Dedryck Boyata (Club Brugge), it was now up to Jan Vertonghen and Anderlecht. The three formed the defense during the group stage at the previous World Cup in Russia, they will also be there in Qatar. And with a view to that World Cup, it is questionable whether a move to the Jupiler Pro League is good news.
Walter Meeuws, himself a former defender and Belgium national team coach in the late 1980s, is convinced that the transfers of Alderweireld, Boyata and Vertonghen are an excellent thing for the national team. “They have opted for an excellent solution. Toby still made minutes in Qatar, but Boyata and Vertonghen were bankers abroad, weren’t they. Then isn’t it better to be a titular in our competition? Those three will be ready for the World Cup, I have no doubt about that.”
Sure of their place
“It is crucial to get enough rhythm in the months before a major tournament,” continues Meeuws. “They will succeed: at the Belgian clubs they are actually sure of their place. Besides, they don’t lose their qualities because they play in Belgium. If I were the national coach, I would be very satisfied. The alternative was to sit with their ass on the couch. Then they would certainly not have been at the level in Qatar. No, as far as our defense is concerned, I am confident that it will not be their fault.” Meeuws is more concerned about the offensive compartment. “Eden Hazard should have set an example for Vertonghen. I don’t mean that he should have signed with Anderlecht or Club Brugge, but he should have taken a step back. Hazard has been banned from Real Madrid for months, while at his age you just need your weekly game. (sigh) And then Romelu Lukaku is also in trouble with injuries.”
Hence the conclusion of Meeuws: “We were still favorites in the previous tournaments, then we are not even an outsider now. I’m not saying that because Alderweireld, Boyata and Vertonghen are active in Belgium. On the contrary: they made the right choice. Others…” (pjc)