The squad boasts 12 Premier League players including Manchester United star Adnan Januzaj, as well captain Vincent Kompany and permanent national team fixtures Marouane Fellaini and Eden Hazard.
Wilmots has named four goalkeepers, one of which will drop out by the time the final list has been submitted. Chelsea youngster Thibaut Courtois, who has spent the last three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid, comes into the tournament as Belgium’s number one stopper. The 22-year-old has emerged as one of the world’s top ‘keepers during his spell at Atleti and his superb form resulted in him playing in every minute of Belgium’s World Cup Qualifying campaign where the Red Devils topped the group, remaining unbeaten in the process.
Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet provides back-up to Courtois, but it’s unlikely that he will add to his 14 caps. Silvio Proto, one of three Belgian Pro League players within the squad, and Koen Casteels will battle it out for the third goalkeeper spot.
Alongside the talismanic Kompany, seven other defenders will travel to Brazil. Premier League counterparts Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen, of Arsenal and Tottenham respectively, complete the English-based trio at the back. They are joined by Atletico Madrid’s Toby Alderweireld and these four will most likely make up Belgium’s starting defence. Anthony Vanden Borre, Laurent Ciman, Nicolas Lombaerts and Daniel van Buyten – the only player in the squad with previous World Cup experience – are also included. Lombaerts enjoyed a particularly strong qualifying campaign but despite replicating his impressive form in club football for Zenit, he’ll be deputy to Vertonghen at left-back.
19-year-old Januzaj is called up to his first international senior squad after high-profile media interest surrounding his international future. The winger opted to represent Belgium last month but was eligible for Kosovo, Albania, Turkey, Serbia, or even England. Januzaj has enjoyed an impressive breakthrough season at Old Trafford, scoring four times in 27 league matches.
As if Januzaj’s trickery wasn’t enough, Wilmots has another world-class winger at his disposal in Brazil. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is already closing in on a half-century of appearances for his country despite being just 23 years old. Although he experienced a distinctly average qualifying campaign by his standards, Hazard is sure to be central to any success for Belgium this summer.
The Red Devils aren’t short of options out wide – Kevin Mirallas can play on the right, or upfront. Another player likely to feature in the starting eleven is Kevin De Bruyne. The midfielder has enjoyed a fruitful spell at Wolfsburg since signing for the German outfit in January and may start out wide, with Hazard occupying the opposite wing. The inclusion of Dries Mertens means Belgium have strength in depth in wide areas, the Napoli winger is more than capable of stepping up when called upon.
Wilmots’ squad also includes Tottenham midfield duo Moussa Dembele and Nacer Chadli. Spurs star Dembele impressed in qualifying despite experiencing an indifferent season at White Hart Lane. Chadli has featured on the wing and as a striker for Belgium, therefore providing Wilmots with an extra option if needed. He earned his first cap in 2011, despite appearing in a friendly for Morocco a year earlier.
Axel Witsel, Steven Defour and Marouane Fellaini provide the Red Devils with a strong presence in the middle of the park. Witsel, vital to both attack and defence, has made 45 appearances for his country and will hope to earn his 50th cap at the World Cup. Fellaini has had a poor first season at Manchester United and will aim to use the World Cup as a mechanism to rekindle the form he was in at Everton before his big money move to Old Trafford. Defour will provide the creative spark in midfield, and despite the 26-year-old struggling to make an impact at Porto, he has performed well for Belgium since making his debut in 2006 aged 18.
Romelu Lukaku is one of two strikers named by Wilmots in his 24-man squad. The Chelsea striker, who has spent the last two seasons on loan at West Bromwich Albion and Everton, goes into the World Cup as the nailed on starting striker, especially as Christan Benteke misses the tournament through injury. Lukaku has bagged five goals in 27 appearances for Belgium but mas matured greatly in the past two years, scoring 32 Premier League goals. The only surprise selection within the squad is back-up striker Divock Origi, who heads to Brazil without a senior cap to his name. 19-year-old Origi has however represented his national teams at all youth levels, scoring 10 times in 19 appearances for Belgium U19’s. The Lille forward has enjoyed an impressive breakthrough season in Ligue 1.
Wilmots has also named six players on standby, these are: Sebastien Pocognoli ,Radia Nainggolan, Eden’s brother Thorgan Hazard, Guillaume Gillet, Belgian Pro League top scorer Michy Batshuayi and Jelle Van Damme.
Belgium start their World Cup 2014 campaign on 17th June against Algeria, before facing Russia on 22nd June. They wrap up Group B on the 26th June when they play South Korea.
BELGIAN WORLD CUP SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, on loan from Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim), Silvio Proto (Anderlecht).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St Petersburg), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele (both Tottenham), Steven Defour (Porto), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg), Dries Mertens (Napoli).
Forwards: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, on loan from Chelsea), Divock Origi (Lille).
Standby: Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover), Radia Nainggolan (Roma), Thorgan Hazard (Zulte Waregem, on loan from Chelsea), Guillaume Gillet (Anderlecht), Michy Batshuayi, Jelle Van Damme (both Standard Liege).
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