Jan Vertonghen believes Belgium will be able to handle the pressure and bounce back from their first Euro 2024 defeat.

Slovakia earned a surprise win over the Red Devils thanks to Ivan Schranz's early goal, and a wasteful Belgium were unable to salvage a point.

Lukaku thought he had twice equalised, though both strikes were ruled out, the first for offside and the second by VAR for a handball in the build-up.

Despite an early setback in the tournament, Vertonghen is confident his side will be able to quickly put it behind them when they face Romania next time out.

"Obviously, the team is very disappointed after yesterday's result," Vertonghen said.

"You always want the first game at a tournament to take the pressure away a bit, but now the pressure is probably even more and that's why we're disappointed. We're not disappointed in the way we played, or the chances we created or the way we defended.

"[To change our style] would be a mistake in my opinion. Obviously, the easy answer is to score goals and avoid conceding any. But yeah, the mindset is key, to attack and then to win and to keep doing what we've been doing for the previous 15 matches.

"I would be more worried if we didn't have the quality, so I'm confident we will score on Saturday."

Belgium missed four Opta-defined big chances in this match, the first time they’d done so in a European Championship game since 1980 against Spain, with three of those falling to Lukaku.

The striker created an xG of 0.82 from his three shots over 90 minutes, cutting a frustrated figure on the pitch.

It is also the first time that Belgium have lost since 27 November 2022 against Morocco in the World Cup, ending a 15-game unbeaten run in all competitions (W10 D5).

Belgium are not concerned about the lack of people touting them as one of the favourites to win Euro 2024, according to full-back Timothy Castagne.

Belgium's so-called 'golden generation' have flattered to deceive at recent tournaments, a bronze medal at the 2018 World Cup being their best finish at any competition since they were runners-up at Euro 1980.

They were stunned by Wales in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, beaten by Italy at the same stage at Euro 2020 and succumbed to a group-stage exit at the last World Cup in Qatar.

They topped their qualification group for Euro 2024 – the sixth successive campaign in which they have done so – and are now unbeaten in 40 World Cup/Euros qualifiers (35 wins, five draws).

But with Thibaut Courtois left out of Domenico Tedesco's squad and Eden Hazard retiring in the aftermath of their 2022 World Cup campaign, few are tipping the Red Devils for success in Germany.

That does not concern Castagne, who told reporters: "The group is a good mix of experience and youth. 

"I'm not here to prove to you that we have a chance, it has to happen on the pitch.

"We don't care if the outside world see us as a favourite. The most important thing is that we believe that we can achieve something beautiful."

Prior to a ball being kicked at this year's tournament, the Opta supercomputer gave Belgium a 4.7 per cent chance of winning their first major trophy, with seven nations seen as more likely champions.

Belgium's preparations for Monday's Group E opener against Slovakia, meanwhile, have been affected by fitness concerns. 

Defenders Jan Vertonghen and Arthur Theate have been nursing knocks, while Axel Witsel – who is also expected to be used as a centre-back – trained alone on Friday.

"I'm not worried about the fact that there are some absentees. Everyone who will play is ready, there is enough quality," Castagne added.

"We give it our all (in training), we were not extra careful because there are a lot of injured players. But of course, we won't do stupid things. There's no point in making unnecessary tackles."

Belgium international and former Tottenham star Jan Vertonghen has ruled out immediately starting a coaching career once he brings down the curtain on his illustrious playing career.

The 36-year-old, enjoying the challenge of rejuvenating Belgian giants Anderlecht after a disappointing campaign last year, now has his eyes firmly set on investment opportunities off the pitch.

Despite being coached by the likes of Roberto Martinez and Mauricio Pochettino, Vertonghen does not see the lure of being back on the grass when he calls time on his playing career in football.

"I have my A licence, I did it just to understand how coaches think and what kind of work they need to put in," he said to Stats Perform.

"So, when I'm sitting on this side of the room in a meeting, I understand where it comes from. It's important for me to understand people, how they think, what work they have to put in, how the data works, and the physical load.

"That's why I did it, to understand that side and for me, it's not an option – definitely not for the first couple of years – mainly because I am looking for the right balance in my life.

"I feel that the husband I want to be, the father that I want to be and the coach that I want to be, I can't see it will work because I see the work they put in.

"They arrive at seven, they go home after seven. I want to see my kids, as I said, my son has started playing football. I want to go to his training sessions. I want to go to his games. I want to take my daughter to dance class. I want to pick my other son up from school.

"And that life doesn't exist being a coach or being an assistant coach or a physical coach. And if you take a job like this, you can't disrespect the job. You have to put the hours in, and I can't do that at the moment."

Vertonghen joins other elite athletes to work with investment company APEX to invest in the sports, media and entertainment industry.

APEX boasts 15+ investments among an athlete community of over 100 from the world of F1, football, boxing and surfing.

Antonio Cacorino, APEX co-founder and chief executive, believes having Vertonghen on board, along with the other global sporting stars, reinforces that notion athletes are keen to make the most of their potential away from their respective fields.

CaCorino said: "Traditionally, the thought was, 'Let me only think about investing or being active in something different when I retire. Let me focus 1,000 per cent on sports'.

"Unless you are Cristiano Ronaldo or a few other athletes in the world, when you retire, you just become irrelevant. It's unfortunate but it's the reality.

"We work with guys like Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly. In football, Siem de Jong, Luuk de Jong, Christian Eriksen, Raphael Varane. Anthony Joshua is a big boxer, so just really building a very strong, diverse asset community.

"We created an amazing athlete community of athletes from all over the world who have this sort of entrepreneurial mindset and this like-minded approach to how they want to position themselves beyond pure athletes."

Vertonghen, an Athlete partner at APEX, reveals meeting the young and ambitious co-founders, along with a star-studded list of sports stars involved, gave him the confidence to get involved with the Lisbon-based company.

"When you invest in a company with other high-profile names, most of the time they're surrounded by the best possible people," added the defender, who is Belgium’s most-capped player with 153 appearances for the Red Devils.

“They invest in the best possible companies with great opportunities.

"It makes a bit less sense if I invest in software from any kind of thing. For me, it's a sport-minded company where I can have my input, where I can talk to anyone who I want, where I can get the information that I want."

However, Vertonghen has no intention of hanging up his boots just yet, nor is he ready to give up keeping clean sheets either.

After a difficult 2022-23 season, which saw Champions League regulars Anderlecht finish in a lowly 11th place, he takes satisfaction in what has been a positive start to the campaign.

He continued: "Last year was a very, very bad and disappointing season, but we had a very good transfer window, great signings.

“[The manager] brought some great young guys in, experienced players like Kasper Schmeichel, for example, just leaders and guys who just want to win, and that's what we needed. The atmosphere in the team is great.

“In Belgium, it works with a play-off system. If you get into the top six, you go for the Champions Playoffs, and that's our ambition, to be in that top six.

“And then whoever's in the top six can be champion. It's just important for all the teams who have the ambition to achieve the highest things, to be in the top six.”

Chelsea's spending should have the Blues competing for the Champions League but Jan Vertonghen says the quality of the Premier League and injury issues have hampered them.

The Blues once again splashed on big-money arrivals ahead of the 2023-24 season, bringing in the likes of Moises Caicedo, Romeo Lavia, Christopher Nkunku and Cole Palmer.

Caicedo's arrival broke the British record after his £115million move from Brighton, a mark only set in the previous season when Chelsea signed Benfica's Enzo Fernandez for £107m.

Their aggressive activity in the transfer market is yet to pay dividends, with Chelsea winning just three of their opening 10 Premier League games before Monday's visit to Tottenham.

Having also signed Axel Disasi, Nicolas Jackson and Robert Sanchez for significant fees, Vertonghen believes Chelsea's acquisitions should have helped a top-four challenge.

Former Tottenham defender Vertonghen, an Athlete Partner for APEX, told Stats Perform: "They had to make it into the Champions League.

"They signed so many players. When I saw the squad at the start of the year, I thought they had to reach the Champions League, with so many good young players and the signings they made."

Talented young midfielder Lavia and former RB Leipzig talisman Nkunku are yet to play a minute in the league for Chelsea due to injury.

With injuries taking their toll and the likes of Aston Villa, Brighton and Newcastle United exceeding expectations, Vertonghen acknowledged the struggles Chelsea face.

"They suffered a lot of injuries, and when you look how strong the Premier League is – it's not just Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, you've got Spurs doing well, Brighton, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Arsenal.

"It's not a top four or six anymore, it's a top nine or 10 at the moment, especially when you see United and Chelsea being so far out.

"It's not easy. Chelsea should do better, but they've suffered a lot of injuries."

While referencing the challenges his former rivals are up against, Vertonghen suggested Chelsea are in safe hands with Pochettino.

The Belgium defender worked closely with the Blues head coach when at Spurs, helping Pochettino's former side to the Champions League final in the 2018-19 campaign.

"He's very good at shaping a team, shaping a squad," added the 36-year-old, who made 232 appearances for Tottenham.

"I think that's what he did very well at Tottenham. He got the right players in, the right characters, who wanted to work in his system and we had the perfect squad for that.

"A very good young core of guys who wanted to work hard and achieve big things and in his team I learned how to work and get the best out of my body. That's what I learned from him."

Jan Vertonghen believes his former Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane could be the "missing link" that helps Bayern Munich back to Champions League glory.

Kane has enjoyed a superb start to his career with the Bavarian giants, scoring his third hat-trick of the season in Saturday's 4-0 Klassiker win over Borussia Dortmund, taking his Bundesliga tally to 15 after 10 matches. No player has ever scored more than 13 in their first 10 games in the competition.

He is already just one goal behind the number the 2022-23 top scorers managed (Christopher Nkunku and Niclas Fullkrug – 16), while he is halfway to the record for the most goals scored in a debut Bundesliga season, currently held by Uwe Seeler (30) in the 1963-1964 campaign.

His record-breaking form is giving Bayern fans hope that he can lead them to a seventh Champions League title and their first since the 2019-20 campaign, and Vertonghen, who reached the final of that competition alongside Kane with Spurs in the 2018-19 season, believes the England international can be the man to return Bayern to European success.

Asked if Kane could be the final puzzle piece to a Bayern Champions League win, Vertonghen, an Athlete Partner for APEX, told Stats Perform: "For sure.

"There's not a lot of great number nines at the moment – that's why Barcelona paid the money for [Robert] Lewandowski, that's why Bayern Munich paid the money for Harry.

"The young number nines are very rare – you have [Erling] Haaland, Gabriel Jesus. A lot of teams are looking for them.

"Harry was there, he's fit, he's got a lot of good years ahead of him and for sure he could be the missing link there."

Kane's Spurs exit in August saw him end a 19-year association with the club, leaving as the club's record goalscorer, having found the net 280 times in 435 appearances in all competitions.

Despite Kane's departure, Spurs have started the season very well under new head coach Ange Postecoglou and will return to the Premier League summit if they can beat Chelsea at home on Monday.

Vertonghen feels Kane would not have taken the decision to leave Spurs lightly, saying: "On his side it wasn't a no brainer, because Tottenham is in his heart – he's a legend there, everyone loves him, born and raised in London. It wasn't easy for him to leave, Tottenham really wanted to keep him as well.

"But I understand why he did it. He plays now for one of the biggest clubs in Europe, he probably thought he had more chance of adding some silverware.

"It's a shame for Tottenham, it's a shame for Harry – especially now you see the way they're performing now, but nobody would have predicted that.

"Everyone at Spurs wants him to do well; he's a legend, a great guy and he never put a foot wrong for Tottenham. He never complained, even in the bad times, he was always there as a leader, so everyone just wants him to do well."

Tottenham can go all the way in the Premier League title race after making a brilliant start to life under Ange Postecoglou, says former Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen.

Postecoglou has made the best-ever start by a Premier League manager across their first 10 games in charge, leading Spurs to eight wins and two draws while implementing a vibrant brand of possession-based football.

The former Celtic boss could become just the third manager to go unbeaten through his first 11 games in the competition when Spurs host London rivals Chelsea on Monday. 

Frank Clark (with Nottingham Forest in 1994) and Maurizio Sarri (with Chelsea in 2018) are the only men to previously achieve that feat, with the latter avoiding defeat in his first 12 matches.

With new arrivals including James Maddison, Micky van de Ven and Guglielmo Vicario requiring no bedding-in period, Tottenham have made their best start to a top-flight season since 1960-61.

On that occasion, they won their first 10 games in the old First Division before capturing what remains their most recent league title.  

With a lack of European football giving Postecoglou more time to work with his players, Vertonghen believes Tottenham can dream of replicating that success.

"He's doing an unbelievable job," Vertonghen, an Athlete Partner for APEX, told Stats Perform when asked about Postecoglou's impact.

"Lots of things have happened since I left Tottenham, but this year they made all the right decisions. 

"They signed the right players, the right coach with the right mentality that the club has missed for a while. 

"He's doing an unbelievable job. I'm really enjoying watching them and I don't see why they can't go for the highest things possible. 

"All the other clubs are playing in Europe or struggling with injuries, and besides that, Spurs have a great team and that's very important as well. 

"They have the crowd behind them. I can see them going all the way."

Spurs face a familiar face next time out as Vertonghen's former boss Mauricio Pochettino returns to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with Chelsea on Monday.

Vertonghen's old club have won all four of their home league games under Postecoglou, with Manchester United and Liverpool among the teams to leave north London empty-handed in 2023-24.

Another victory would make Postecoglou the first coach to win his first five home games in the Premier League since May 2017, when Craig Shakespeare achieved the feat with Leicester City.

Jan Vertonghen believes Ajax have started to take steps towards a much-needed rebuild, though concedes things may get worse before they improve.

The 36-time Dutch champions have made an awful start to 2023-24, taking eight points from their first nine games of the Eredivisie season to sit 15th ahead of Sunday's meeting with Heerenveen.   

Maurice Steijn left his role as head coach by mutual consent with the club mired in 17th place last week, just four months after he joined from Sparta Rotterdam on a three-year deal.

Hedwiges Maduro then took charge as Ajax made unwanted history against PSV last Sunday, suffering a fifth successive Eredivisie defeat for the first time in their history as they were routed 5-2.

Ajax responded by appointing former winger John van 't Schip as interim coach this week, and his first game in charge resulted in a 2-0 win over FC Volendam on Thursday.

New boss Van 't Schip represented the club for 11 years as a player between 1981 and 1992, before returning as Marco van Basten's assistant coach in 2008.

While Vertonghen – who began his career with Ajax before leaving for Tottenham in 2012 – knows his old club have a long road ahead of them, he believes they have the right structure in place to bounce back.

"It hurts. Obviously, [Ajax] can't win the league every year, but where they are now is not good," Vertonghen, an Athlete Partner for APEX, told Stats Perform.

"It was bad on every level, but sometimes you have to hit lows to get back up. I think they're getting the structure back right. 

"Obviously, they've given a lot of power to someone who wasn't familiar with the culture at Ajax [Steijn]. In three or four months, a lot of damage was done. 

"Where they are now doesn't reflect the quality of the squad at all. Bringing in 13 or 14 new players and a new coach, it takes time, and at Ajax you don't get that time. You need to perform. Being second is not good enough. 

"They've got some people back at the club with Ajax in their heart, who want the best for Ajax. So, yeah, it will take a while, and hopefully they can get into Europe this year."

Vertonghen moved to his homeland to represent Anderlecht last September, but he endured a dismal first campaign with the 34-time Belgian champions, who finished 11th in the Pro League.

However, Anderlecht have bounced back under Brian Riemer this campaign, sitting second in the table ahead of back-to-back away games against title rivals Cercle Brugge and Gent.

Asked about Anderlecht's upturn, Vertonghen said: "Last year was a very, very bad and disappointing season, but we had a very good transfer window. 

"We made great signings, people that didn't really fit in left, and we brought in some young guys and experienced players; Kasper Schmeichel, for example, guys who want to win. 

"That's what we need. The atmosphere in the team is great. We have a very, very strong squad of 20 to 25 players. In Belgium, it works with a play-off system. If you get into the top six, you go through to the championship play-off, and that's our ambition: to be in that top six. 

"Whoever's in the top six can be champions. It's important for all the teams who have the ambition to achieve the highest things to be in that top six. 

"There are eight or nine teams fighting for that top six, and then we'll see. At the moment, we're second but still only a couple of points from seventh, so now we have two massive games.

"It's massive for us, two away games as well, so if you lose those two games, you can be seventh. That's how close it is, so we have to get at least four points out of those two games."

Jan Vertonghen does not believe there will be two players who dominate the Ballon d'Or during the next decade in the way Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have done.

Messi scooped his record-extending eighth Ballon d'Or on Monday in Paris.

The 36-year-old led Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar last year, and also enjoyed a fine individual season with Paris Saint-Germain.

This Ballon d'Or will almost certainly be Messi's last. Since 2008, he or Ronaldo have won every edition of the award bar two, with Luka Modric taking it in 2018 and Karim Benzema in 2022.

Messi finished ahead of Erling Haaland – who scored 52 goals in his first season at Manchester City – and his former club-mate Kylian Mbappe, who played a direct part in 50 goals in all competitions for PSG and was the World Cup's leading scorer.

While Haaland and Mbappe have been tipped to fight it out for the award over the next decade, former Tottenham and Ajax defender Vertonghen thinks the days of two players dominating are over.

"I don't think it's going to be two guys dominating for the next 15 years," Vertonghen, an Athlete Partner for APEX, told Stats Perform.

"There are a lot of massive talents. Obviously, you've got Haaland and Mbappe already there for a couple of years, but then if you look at [Jude] Bellingham, what he's doing now, [Jamal] Musiala, I love him, Phil Foden, Vinicius [Junior].

"Those are the young guys. I hope one day a defender or even a goalkeeper [can win]. Thibaut Courtois was very close the year [Real Madrid] won the Champions League.

"I'm probably forgetting 10 or 15 more names. With Belgium, we have a great couple of young guys. There's so many, and I hope one day it could go to a Belgian one."

Bellingham enjoyed a strong season with Borussia Dortmund, though has taken his play up to an elite level since his move to Real Madrid.

The England midfielder finished 18th in the overall voting, with Bayern Munich star Jamal Musiala coming in 26th, 20 places behind Vinicius.

Kevin De Bruyne came fourth in the vote, and Vertonghen enthused over his compatriot's quality.

"Kevin, his passing ability is the one that stands out - you know that he is known for his assists and his vision, but he understands the game so well," he said.

"He knows how to use the space, where to run, he is very, very good in pressing which is something you don't really think of when you think of him, you think of assists, vision, scoring goals, but the way he is able to understand how a team builds up, he's just a genius of the pitch.

"Whenever I played against him with Tottenham, we would always try to build up on the other side because he's the one that will get the team going."

Jan Vertonghen appeared to take a swipe at team-mates Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard following Belgium's shock World Cup defeat by Morocco.

With this tournament regarded as the last shot at glory for the Red Devils' golden generation, Roberto Martinez's side were well short of their best as late goals by Romain Saiss and Zakaria Aboukhlal snatched a 2-0 victory for the Atlas Lions.

Prior to the Group F showdown, De Bruyne and Hazard claimed an ageing Belgium were better equipped to win the World Cup four years ago, when they were narrowly beaten 1-0 by France in the semi-finals.

"We are too old. I think our chance [to win] was in 2018," the Manchester City midfielder said. "We have a good team, but it is getting older.

"We lost key players. We have good new players coming in, but they are not at the level of other players in 2018. I see us more as underdogs."

Skipper Hazard, who feels his side had "greater chances" of glory in Russia, added: "We don't have the three fastest centre-backs in the world, but they know that."

After drawing a blank against Morocco following a 1-0 win over Canada, Belgium have scored the least amount of goals after their opening two matches at a World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1930 (none).

Vertonghen appeared to take a dig at his team-mates when addressing the media in the mixed zone following the loss. "I guess we attack badly because we are also too old up front," he said.

Defeat to 2018 runners-up Croatia in their final Group F match on Thursday would result in an early exit from the competition, and Thibaut Courtois insists the Red Devils must raise their game.

"We know that Croatia are an excellent team, they have talent and are well-organised," he said. "They are good at counter-attacks, one-on-one and have no flaws.

"It will be like a final - after all, they are the finalists of the last World Cup. So far, we haven't played adequately in this tournament, if we want to win we have to level up."

Jan Vertonghen was critical of Belgium's performance following a surprise 2-0 defeat to Morocco, referencing things he "better not say".

The Red Devils would have become the second side to clinch their spot in the round of 16 with victory, but they were well short of their best, failing to create opportunities before succumbing to two late goals.

Regarded as the last chance for glory for Belgium's golden generation, Roberto Martinez's side have now lost seven of their last 19 matches across all competitions (W9, D3), as many defeats as they had suffered across their previous 74 games combined (W57, D10).

While Vertonghen feels Belgium were strong for the majority of the clash, he did not shy away from expressing his frustration at the manner in which the opening goal was conceded.

Abdelhamid Sabiri's free-kick to the near post eluded Thibaut Courtois in a carbon copy of a first-half set-piece where Belgium were saved by an offside flag against Romain Saiss.

"We didn't create much. I think we were good overall, we didn't give much away, just an identical goal twice," he told Sporza.

"Twice a resumption of play at the first post. That ball should never go in. The first time we are lucky, but the second time not any more.

"There are a lot of things going through my head that I better not say, or at least not outside [the dressing] rooms.

"It's very frustrating. The first game was not good, and we got away with it well. Not today. I don't think we created any chances."

Defeat to Croatia in the final Group F match on Thursday would result in an early exit from the competition, but Vertonghen believes his side still have the strength in the squad to progress.

"I had the feeling that we were in a good position. We didn't get into trouble. They have a lot of quality in the front. So did we, but with them it came out more," he added.

"After the first match, we thought it could only get better. We were hoping to qualify for the next round today.

"Now we have a difficult final game in which everything will be at stake. The quality in the group is certainly there."

Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen was bemused by FIFA's decision to ban several European teams from wearing the OneLove armband – an anti-discriminatory symbol – at the World Cup.

The OneLove campaign, which promotes "inclusion and sends a message against discrimination of any kind", had grown in significance ahead of the tournament in Qatar, partly due to the country's criminalisation of homosexuality.

Belgium were one of seven European teams to back the initiative, which involved captains wearing a special OneLove armband that features a multi-coloured heart.

But after discussions between FIFA and an alliance of football associations – England, Wales, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands – a joint statement was released on Monday confirming all teams had pulled out due to the governing body's threat to book players wearing the armband.

FIFA has received widespread criticism as a result of their stance, while the countries in question have attracted flak for wilting under pressure.

Vertonghen seemed perplexed by FIFA opposing messages of solidarity.

Speaking ahead of Belgium's Group F opener against Canada on Wednesday, Vertonghen said: "It's a tough question. If it's too late [to make a statement against discrimination], I don't know. If you make a statement now by wearing it, that would mean punishing yourself.

"But now I'm afraid to say anything. I don't feel comfortable saying anything, and that's telling enough, that we are put under pressure.

"That's a regrettable situation that I've never experienced in football and I hope I won't experience again.

"We are being controlled and I don't really like making political statements anyway, but if you can't even wear a captain's armband with normal messages like 'no to racism', or 'no to discrimination', then hey, then what [can you say]?

"I shouldn't be saying anything about it because tomorrow I want to appear at the game. It's a pity that we have been put in this situation, and I want to leave it at that."

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was also asked about the ban of the OneLove armband, and while he did not offer an opinion on it, he emphasised the work his team have put in familiarising themselves with the controversies surrounding Qatar's hosting of the tournament.

"As a federation and group we've been proactive for last two years, it's not a case of arriving and then catching up on what's happening. We respected everyone's views, worked together with professionals who knew the situations," Martinez said.

"Yesterday there was a clear statement by the federations, and at this point we just want to talk about football, we're desperate to be on the pitch.

"We just want to create a wonderful story, story of a lifetime. That's the only thing we want to be focusing on now."

Belgium international Jan Vertonghen has returned to his home country by joining Anderlecht on a permanent deal from Benfica.

The former Tottenham defender, who has won a remarkable 139 caps for his country, has penned a two-year contract with Belgium's most successful club.

Vertonghen made 57 league appearances during his time in Portugal, having previously enjoyed an eight-year stint in the Premier League. 

Speaking to Anderlecht's website, Vertonghen revealed: "There have been talks with Anderlecht in the past already, but suddenly everything fell into place. 

"I've been following the club's project for a while now and I'm convinced that with my experience I can contribute something to this group."

Vertonghen is not the only former Spurs player to leave Benfica, with Adel Taarabt departing by mutual agreement after seven years with the club.

Roger Schmidt's team have already moved to replace the outgoing duo, sealing a loan deal for Paris Saint-Germain winger Julian Draxler and a permanent move for United States defender John Brooks on transfer deadline day.

Roberto Martinez had reassuring words on Romelu Lukaku's status and even attempted to put a positive spin on Belgium's 4-1 defeat to the Netherlands following the stunning reverse.

Belgium are the world's second-ranked side but were completely outclassed on home turf by a team they had not lost to since 1997.

It had still been 0-0 when Lukaku hobbled off in the first half, however, with the Chelsea forward trying and failing to play on after sustaining an injury in a tangle with Nathan Ake.

However, with three more Nations League matches to come this month, Martinez could at least inform fans Lukaku's ailment was not as serious as might have been feared.

"Lukaku's problem was a knock," he said, although he accepted: "From then on, it became a more difficult match."

This was far from an ideal result in Belgium's first competitive match of a World Cup year, but Martinez believes his side can benefit from the experience.

"This is what we needed to prepare for the World Cup," he said. "It's a hard result, but it's clear what we need to work on.

"The World Cup does not start until November, but with the national team it is already within 17 days. We will have to work in a specific way."

 

The former Everton manager added: "It is clear what we need to work on. We have to use the Nations League to prepare for the World Cup.

"We started well and found spaces. After that, it became physically difficult for players who didn't play much. The result is the result of all these aspects."

Jan Vertonghen disagreed, however, with the Belgium defender identifying issues that were not purely physical.

"It's a very painful defeat," he said. "We didn't get off to a bad start, though. We made it through a few times, especially via the left side.

"We lacked momentum after Romelu's substitution. The Dutch have had just as tough a season as we have. That shouldn't be an excuse. The physical part is not tonight's shortcoming.

"In particular, we had difficulties controlling the deep striker.

"This defeat puts us with both feet on the ground. It is clear that we will have to keep working hard."

Belgium full-back Timothy Castagne has been ruled out for the remainder of Euro 2020 after sustaining a double fracture of his right eye socket.

Roberto Martinez's Belgium opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Russia on Saturday but it came at a cost.

Castagne and Russia's Daler Kuzyaev collided in mid-air after 25 minutes and both went down holding their heads.

Belgium's Castagne was substituted immediately and Kuzyaev two minutes later in the Group B clash in St Petersburg.

"Really bad news, really sad news to see Timothy Castagne is going to be out of the tournament," Belgium head coach Martinez said. 

"He's had images taken, he's got a double fracture and now we'll take the necessary treatment."

While Leicester City's Castagne will sit out the rest of the European Championship, the news was better for Jan Vertonghen. 

Veteran defender Vertonghen was withdrawn in the 77th minute due to ankle injury, but Martinez said there were no major concerns regarding his fitness going forward. 

"Vertonghen has got just a typical football injury, an ankle knock that we're probably going to wait 48 hours to see the real extent, but I don't expect it to be too serious," Martinez said. 

Overall, Martinez was satisfied to see his side play the way they did in the opener. 

"The performance is very pleasing," he said. "It's never easy to start a tournament of this magnitude and I think it looked a team very concentrated for 90 minutes, kept a clean sheet in a very good way, and then obviously the win will allow us to grow and to get into the tournament."

Belgium are unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions (W8 D2) and have suffered just one defeat in their last 24 internationals (W20 D3), via a 2-1 loss to England in the Nations League in October 2020.

Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov will have far more to worry about after an uninspiring performance but expressed optimism his side will bounce back against Finland on Wednesday.

Cherchesov's Russia have lost four of their last six competitive games (W2) after losing just one of their 13 before that (W10 D2).

"We are still in the tournament," Cherchesov told a news conference. "We chose our system, which worked partially but then started to break down. The Belgians scored and then it was difficult to get the ball off them."

"We will get out of the situation. We put ourselves there, so now we must find a way out."

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