Belgium is taking two untested teenagers to the World Cup, including Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj who only chose to play for the national team three weeks ago.
If the inclusion of Januzaj had been expected, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots sprang a major surprise in picking another 19-year-old, Divock Origi of French club Lille as a stand-in for the injured striker Christian Benteke. Neither has played for Belgium.
At the World Cup, Belgium will face Russia, South Korea and Algeria in Group H and with standout players like goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, defender Vincent Kompany and playmaker Eden Hazard is expected to go far in the tournament.
Origi has Kenyan family roots but was born in Belgium. Januzaj has Balkan heritage had been able to pick several nations for international duty, including Albania and Kosovo. He has been with Manchester United since 2011.
"He is a top talent and has such exceptional qualities. He can play several positions," Wilmots said of Januzaj.
Wilmots included Origi after Aston Villa forward Benteke ruptured his Achilles tendon last month.
"He has great potential," Wilmots said. "He has Benteke's profile. It is easy to target him." He has scored five times for Lille this season.
Instead of announcing an extended squad from which to pick the final 23, Wilmots surprisingly announced all the outfield players that will travel to the training camp outside Sao Paulo. He did pick four goalkeepers. Beyond undisputed No. 1 Courtois of Atletico Madrid and backup Simon Mignolet of Liverpool, Wilmots will also take Koen Casteels of Hoffenheim if he has recovered enough from a leg injury. It would make Silvio Proto of Anderlecht the only dropout before departure to Brazil.
With two teenagers, Wilmots added more youth to a squad that will likely have only Bayern Munich's Daniel Van Buyten as an over-30 player.
Wilmots said that playing in the toughest leagues in the world more than made up for a lack of age. Eleven play in the English Premier League, three in the German Bundesliga and two each in Spain and Russia.
If goalkeeper Proto is excluded, only two of the 23 will come from the Belgian league.
Belgium plays preparation games against Luxembourg on May 26, in Sweden on June 1 and in Brussels against Tunisia on June 7. Once in Brazil, it will play a closed-door friendly against the United States on June 12.
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Hoffenheim), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid), Simon Mignolet (FC Liverpool), Silvio Proto (Anderlecht)(asterisk)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid), Laurent Ciman (Standard Liege), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Nicolas Lombaerts(Zenit St. Petersburg), Daniel Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Anthony Vanden Borre (Anderlecht) , Thomas Vermaelen(Arsenal), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Nacer Chadli (Tottenham), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg), Steven Defour (Porto), Moussa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Forwards: Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Divock Origi (Lille).
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Updated Date: May 14, 2014 00:20:29 IST