Belgium national team boss Georges Leekens has named his squad for the upcoming friendly but has snubbed Eden Hazard after his behaviour in the Turkey game.
Hazard, who has yet to score an international goal for Belgium in 20 games, notoriously stormed off the field in the European Championship qualifier against Turkey in June. The highly-sought after Lille player opted to spend the remainder of the game outside the King Baudouin Stadium at a nearby burger van.
Leekens explained his decision to punish arguably Belgium’s most talented player. “Hazard is at the top in France, but they have other standards than us,” said the coach. “We work with the national team with a group of 30 players when the collective takes precedence over the individual. We have a wonderful group discipline and we want to maintain it.”
“Players who cross the yellow line are punished. The case is closed with me. Everyone must respect the rules. With a friendly and a qualifier, I don’t think it is a severe penalty. You have to stay with the group. We are all ambassadors of Belgian football.”
The relationship between the manager and player has deteriorated hugely during the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, after Leekens left Hazard on the bench against Austria, citing tactical reasons for dropping the in-form player. It worked as Belgium won 2-0 in Vienna.
Opinion is split over Leekens’ call. Hazard deserved to be punished for his actions in a crucial game, which Belgium drew 1-1 giving Turkey the edge for the playoff place. Many other players on the bench, notably Dries Mertens, have performed much better than Hazard when given a chance, so maybe Ligue Un’s Player of the Year doesn’t deserve a starting place. The collective group is more important than the melodramatic superstar and I feel Leekens is right to drop Hazard.
One thing that is clear is that this issue won’t go away soon and arguably it should have been dealt with away from the media spotlight. Leekens is no stranger to controversial decisions either and this conflict evokes memories of his falling out with Enzo Scifo at the World Cup in 1998, however their relationship isn’t as frosty nowadays.
In conclusion, Hazard’s behaviour in such a big game was disrespectful but dragging it back up again seems slightly pointless when it should have been dealt in-house. It could derail Belgium’s qualifying campaign, yet it shouldn’t given the team performances without Hazard. Hamburgergate could rumble on for a bit yet.
The squad itself presents little in terms of surprises and looks quite strong. Steven Defour isn’t match-fit whilst Moussa Dembele and Laurent Ciman miss out due to injury. Igor De Camargo, who made his debut against Slovenia in 2009 gets a call-up. Silvio Proto is the unlucky goalkeeper not selected. Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini are picked but are doubtful to play.
25-man squad to face Slovenia on Wednesday 10th August
Goalkeepers – Courtois (Atletico Madrid), Gillet (Bologna), Mignolet (Sunderland)
Defenders - Alderweireld (Ajax), Boyata (Man.City), Kompany (Man.City), Lombaerts (Zenit), Pocognoli (Standard), Van Buyten (Bayern Munich), Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vertonghen (Ajax), Van Damme (Standard)
Midfielders - Chadli (Twente), De Bruyne (Genk), Fellaini (Everton), Hubert (Genk), Mertens (PSV), Odjidja (Club Brugge), Simons (Nuremberg), Witsel (Benfica)
Forwards – De Camargo (Mönchengladbach), Lukaku (Anderlecht), Ogunjimi (Genk), Vleminckx (Club Brugge), Vossen (Genk)
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Tagged Axel Witsel, Belgium, Bjorn Vlemnickx, boyata, David Hubert, discipline, Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard, FIFA, friendly, georges leekens, Igor De Camargo, international, Jean-Francois Gillet, Jelle Van Damme, Jelle Vossen, Kevin De Bruyne, kompany, lombaerts, Marouane Fellaini, Marvin Ogunjimi, Nacer Chadli, Odjidja-Ofoe, pocognoli, Romelu Lukaku, Simon Mignolet, Simons, Slovenia, suspension, Thibaut Courtois, Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld, UEFA, Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany