rejuvenated on the bench and the field, Belgium starts from scratch

With a young coach, Domenico Tedesco, and without aging former glories, Belgium, opposed to Sweden this Friday (8:45 p.m.), begins a new cycle.

Venom, ringing ears. Belgium’s exit from the road at the 2022 World Cup made headlines. And not only for his feverish performances, who left him behind Morocco and Croatia in the group stage. “No chance“to be sacred,”we are too old“, released Kevin De Bruyne in the columns of the Guardian even before the tournament.

We don’t have the three fastest centre-backs“, noted Eden Hazard. “Maybe we attack badly because the guys there (attackers) are too old“, spat, not without irony, the captain and defender Jan Vertonghen, 35, after the defeat against Morocco (2-0).

Hazard and Alderweireld returned the apron

Symbolic remarks from a locker room that exploded in Qatar, leading the resignation of Roberto Martinezcoach in office since 2016. The Catalan, left to lead Portugalfailed to realize the potential of a golden generation, 2018 World Cup semi-finalist. He was unable to manage a transition that had become forced, and more brutal than expected. In the process, Hazard (126 selections) retired from international. Defender Toby Alderweireld (127 caps) and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet (35 caps) followed suit in early March.

Without Eden Hazard (left), Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne will be all the more scrutinized with Belgium. Vincent Kalut

Blank page effect on the flat country. It’s clear: we have to start a new cycle, another dynamic. With which boss? It took two months before a successor to Martinez, 49, was announced. Especially since the Spaniard had the double role of technical director. For this position, a local and old of the day before, Franky Vercauteren (66 years old), was chosen. On the bench, it’s another turn with Domenico Tedesco, 37 years old.

Young manager promotes young players

“Tedesqui?”, must have wondered the general public in Belgium. It must be said that, even for football experts, Tedesco’s CV remains meager. His early prowess at Schalke (2e Bundesliga) and Spartak Moscow brought him to RB Leipzig, where he did not last 10 months (sacked last September). The Italo-German is not a high-sounding name.

The Belgian federation said it was looking for “a “serial winner” with experience in managing world-cl players (…) and knowing how to win trophies in world-renowned competitions“. Between a German Cup 2022, the only trophy won by the young Tedesco, and a Euro or a World Cup, there is a long way.

Amadou Onana (Everton) and Roméo Lavia (Southampton) are holders in the Premier League. AI/Reuters/Panoramic/ED SYKES/DAVID KLEIN

So, what to expect with this new Belgium? In addition to retirees Alderweireld and Hazard, experienced Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens did not appear on the list of 24 players summoned by Tedesco this week. The latter does not close the door to them, but says he wantssee what young people are capable of“. Without naming them, the coach is thinking of midfielders Amadou Onana (21, Everton) and Roméo Lavia (19, Southampton).

Courtois and De Bruyne, cornerstones of a new beginning

That does not mean that the Red Devils will be without captains. Thibaut Courtois, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, is still there. Stopper Jan Vertonghen (145 selections, Belgian record holder) too, and maestro Kevin De Bruyne was promoted to captain. In fact, Tedesco “just took the 20 outfield players who suited him best at the moment T“, sums up the daily The last hour .

This is where, as our colleagues point out, Tedesco will decide with his predecessors, Marc Wilmots (2012-2016) and Roberto Martinez (2016-2022). The Italian-German, who has no past as a player, “is clearly not made for the political world“. It stands out from the lists“Fan School” at Martinez where you could sometimes find 30 to 35 players, to offend as few people as possible», compare The last hour.

Reputed to be a bit of a geek, focused on data, Tedesco is in Belgium for one thing: football, nothing but football. “When it’s the end of something, it’s the beginning of another. The succession has a lot of quality“, promised Thorgan Hazard, 29, winger and little brother of Eden, at the end of the World Cup. Qualify for Euro 2024, with qualifiers starting in the biggest chunk, Sweden this Friday (8:45 p.m., broadcast on The team channel), must remain a formality. His new ceiling? Belgium does not know him. Not yet.

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