Doku and Dimata called up by Belgium, no place for Benteke or Batshuayi

By Sports Desk August 25, 2020

Anderlecht youngsters Jeremy Doku and Landry Dimata have been handed their maiden senior call-ups for Belgium, although there was no place for Michy Batshuayi or Christian Benteke in Robert Martinez's squad for next month's Nations League matches against Denmark and Iceland.

Winger Doku, 18, has established himself as a first-team fixture at Anderlecht over the past year, where Dimata, 22, has returned after missing the entirety of last season with knee damage by scoring two in the opening three Pro League games of 2020-21.

"Doku is an exceptional talent," Martinez said. "He brings something very important in modern football and that is his qualities in one-on-one situations.

"Dimata has a special profile. A number nine is a very important profile for us.

"Just that he has already played three matches can be important for us. We have always rated him highly and think this is a good time to include him in the group. "

Benteke has been a mainstay in Martinez's squads up until this point despite a dwindling goals return – he managed six over the course of the previous three Premier League seasons at Crystal Palace – while Batshuayi has struggled for opportunities at Chelsea, where the arrival of Timo Werner does little for his prospects.

"On Batshuayi and Benteke we have had direct contact with their clubs and it turned out that it was better that they did not travel and did not leave the training camp," Martinez said. 

"It is not a football decision. Benteke is in our plans. Batshuayi had a difficult season, but has a lot of credit because of what he did before for the national team. "

Explaining his selections, Martinez suggested players competing in Belgium's domestic competition, such as three-times capped Anderlecht midfielder Yari Verschaeren, had been granted an advantage due to their season already being up and running.

"September will be a strange period," he said. "Some players are coming out of a rest period, so it is a good time to use players who have already gained rhythm.

"Especially for players with a great future. It will be a good experience for players like Doku and Verschaeren."

Thomas Vermaelen was not named in the 29-man group, but Martinez explained the Vissel Kobe defender would be added if his travel from Japan could be cleared.

Belgium travel to face Denmark on September 5 before hosting Iceland three days later in Group A2, which also features England.

Belgium squad:

Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Hendrik van Crombrugge (Anderlecht); Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Elias Cobbaut (Anderlecht), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica), Timothy Castagne (Atalanta), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund); Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Nacer Chadli (Monaco), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht); Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool), Jeremy Doku (Anderlecht), Landry Dimata (Anderlecht), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion).

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    "We knew that whoever scored first would win it," said Mourinho. "And so it proved."

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    "We feel tricked by the officials," Casillas said afterwards.

    "Next year, they might as well give the cup to Barcelona," complained Ronaldo.

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    The aftermath

    Over those two spectacular weeks, the teams shared two draws and one win apiece. Barca, though, were the victors: a third league title in a row and a second Champions League triumph under Guardiola easily made up for losing the Copa final.

    Mourinho, however, would not lose the war.

    These games, and the 5-4 two-legged Supercopa de Espana defeat in August – one made infamous by Mourinho poking Barca assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye – showed the Portuguese the way to conquer Spain: disrupt Barca and destroy the rest. His players seemed galvanised, and they proved it.

    In 2010-11, Barca finished on 96 points, four ahead of Madrid. Interestingly, they only scored 95 goals to their rivals' 102, while conceding 12 goals fewer. They lost just two games to Madrid's four.

    Mourinho's response was to develop Madrid not into a team impossible to beat, but one that could barely stop winning. Records tumbled in 2011-12: 32 victories from 38 games, 121 goals scored, 100 points accrued. His Faustian pact with Madrid had paid off, but those vitriolic two campaigns took their toll. He has had three times as many job changes as league titles in the decade since.

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