Belgium keep injuries under wraps ahead of Slovakia clash



Sat, 15 Jun 2024 - 01:36 GMT


Sat, 15 Jun 2024 - 01:36 GMT

General view outside the Stuttgart Arena ahead of Euro 2024 REUTERS/Robin Rudel/File Photo

General view outside the Stuttgart Arena ahead of Euro 2024 REUTERS/Robin Rudel/File Photo

(Reuters) - Belgium remained tight-lipped over their injury woes in defence but let slip the fact that Axel Witsel had returned to individual training ahead of their European Championship Group E opener against Slovakia in Frankfurt on Monday.


Belgium held a closed training session on Saturday and journalists were asked not to pose questions about the players’ fitness at a media conference later in the day, though right back Timothy Castagne confirmed that Witsel, who had pulled out of training on Friday, had done an individual session.


Witsel was called out of retirement for the tournament as a centre back having been converted from midfield at Atletico Madrid this season.


There was no response to questions about the fitness of Jan Vertonghen and Arthur Theate and their absence, along with Witsel's, poses a potential crisis at the back for coach Domenico Tedesco.


"I'm not worried about the fact that there are some absentees. Everyone who will play is ready, there is enough quality," Castagne told reporters.


Wout Faes and 20-year-old Zeno Debast are the other specialist centre backs in the squad and Castagne, with 43 caps since 2018, is ready to take a leadership role in defence.


"I'm the most experienced player at the back. I always talk, but now I must do so even more. Of course, when I'm on the right, I can't talk to the left back. When there is a pause in the game I use that time to make adjustments."


Castagne said there was no instruction from Tedesco to take things easy in training but admitted that the last thing the team needed were more injury problems.


"We give it our all, we were not extra careful because there are a lot of injured players. But of course, we won't do stupid things. There's no point in making unnecessary tackles."


Even with a depleted backline, Castagne believes there is enough quality in the Belgium side for them to win a maiden Euro title, having been runners-up to West Germany in 1980.


"The group is a good mix of experience and youth. I'm not here to prove to you that we have a chance, it has to happen on the pitch.


"We don't care if the outside world see us as a favourite (or not). The most important thing is that we believe that we can achieve something beautiful."



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