The Red Devils today begin preparations for their last two qualifiers for the 2018 Football World Cup: against Bosnia-Herzegovina, on Saturday, October 7, and on Tuesday, October 10, against Cyprus. They need wins in both matches to be among the eight top teams at the World Cup draw in Moscow on December 1.
Twenty-seven players are scheduled to go to Tubize, but the actual number on the field of the Belgian Football Center is certain to be lower. Manchester City trainer Pep Guardiola has, in fact, announced that Vincent Kompany will only travel to Belgium and back for an examination by the team’s doctors. Kompany has not played since receiving a kick on his calf against Gibraltar at the end of August.
Discussions in the press and among supporters – the first training session is open to the public – are likely to focus once more on Radja Nainggolan. Selector Roberto Martinez has again decided not to use the “Ninja” from A.S. Roma. This decision has to do only with football, Martinez said at a press conference on Friday. The Spaniard feels that “other players perform better in his position in the national team” and is opting for “continuity” with previous matches as the qualification phase comes to a close.
At the press conference, Martinez had expressed concern about two other players, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli. The former dispelled all doubts on Saturday. After picking up an ankle injury a week before in Southampton, he played the entire match against Crystal Palace, scoring twice. Chadli stayed on the West Bromwich Albion bench on Saturday after playing with the reserve on Monday last. The versatile WBA player missed the start of the season due to a muscle injury.
The selector can, however, be happy at the form shown by some of his players at the weekend: Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens all hit the back of the net.
Belgium has already qualified for the World Cup, but the last two matches are still highly important. Wins will guarantee Belgium a place at the top of the group draw. To be among the eight heads of groups, the Red Devils need to be one of the top seven teams in the International Federation of Football Associations, FIFA, rankings. The remaining slot in the top 8 goes to Russia as organizer.