Belgium World Cup 2022 squad and preview: Roberto Martinez announces final 26-man team

Belgium World Cup 2022 squad
(Image credit: PA)

The Belgium World Cup 2022 squad has been announced, with Roberto Martinez trusting his roster of 26 players to finally fulfil their potential and obtain glory in Qatar. 

Belgium are in Group F, and will face Morocco, Croatia and Canada at the Qatar World Cup, tough tests they need to navigate successfully if they are to have any chance of reaching the final on December 18. 

Ultimately, glory is the target for Belgium. 

When Roberto Martinez succeeded Marc Wilmots, the Euro 2016 victim of Hal Robson-Kanu’s Cruyff turn and Sam Vokes’ towering header, Martinez’s message was simple: with this group of players, Belgium could win the World Cup.

His intent resonated with the Belgian FA’s hierarchy, and the Spaniard led the Red Devils to third place in 2018 with a dazzling display against Brazil.  The 1-0 semi-final defeat to eventual champions France prompted Belgium to play more reactively at Euro 2020, their low defensive block intended to make them tougher to beat while also masking an ageing backline. Belgium choked against Italy in the quarters.

No team has won an international tournament with such an old defence – even older now – except maybe Italy themselves. Facing them at Euro 2020, Martinez waited 70 minutes to make a change. Where was his plan B?

A few months later, in October 2021, Belgium again came up short, letting slip a 62nd-minute 2-0 advantage in their Nations League semi-final defeat to France. Then came another 2-1 loss to Italy in the third-place play-off. Kevin De Bruyne lamented that Belgium “had to be a bit realistic about the team we have”, with strength in depth becoming even more of a problem.

His words reflected the increasing discontent regarding results. Martinez labelled his first five years in charge “a wonderful journey” that “set the stage for the new generation”.

But the wider consensus was – and the facts demonstrated – that for all of the
Red Devils’ potential with such playing talent, he had failed to deliver a prize. 

Belgium are still ranked No.2 in the world, and have been in the top two since 2018, yet most of their victories came against second-class opposition. At crucial junctures, Martinez reacted late or not at all. 

June’s 4-1 home loss to the Netherlands was instructive. Belgium’s rearguard was too old, Eden Hazard was limping on one leg, and still Martinez trusted his veterans.

The ‘Golden Generation’ has lost its shine, but Martinez doesn’t see it. His loyalty could be Belgium’s downfall, as the new breed, led by Milan’s Charles De Ketelaere, has had little time to gel. And so, for one last time, the onus is on De Bruyne and his cohort to justify their promise and cement their legacy.

Belgium World Cup 2022 squad

Belgium World Cup 2022 squad: The final 26-player team

  • GK: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
  • GK: Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge)
  • GK Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg)
  • DF: Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht
  • DF: Toby Alderweireld (Royal Antwerp)
  • DF: Wout Faes (Leicester)
  • DF: Arthur Theate (Rennes)
  • DF: Zeno Debast (Anderlecht)
  • DF: Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund)
  • DF: Timothy Castagne (Leicester)
  • MF: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
  • MF: Youri Tielemans (Leicester)
  • MF: Amadou Onana (Everton)
  • MF: Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid)
  • MF: Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge)
  • MF: Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa)
  • MF: Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid)
  • MF: Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)
  • FW: Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
  • FW: Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan)
  • FW: Leandro Trossard (Brighton)
  • FW: Dries Mertens (Galatasaray)
  • FW: Jeremy Doku (Rennes)
  • FW: Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan)
  • FW: Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce)
  • FW: Lois Openda (Lens)

Belgium manager

Who is Belgium's manager for the 2022 World Cup?

Former Everton gaffer Roberto Martinez enjoys life in Belgium and combines his managerial role with being the FA’s technical director. Flamboyant, self-confident and with a soft touch toward his stars, Martinez is yet to truly deliver and his honeymoon period ended at Euro 2020 – now it’s a question of getting a proper result in Qatar.

Belgium's star player

Who is Belgium's best player?

Kevin De Bruyne marginally edges Thibaut Courtois – few teams can claim they have two of the world’s best players. Manchester City’s midfield maestro remains a pure joy: his vision and peerless passing allows him to cut open a defence within a single second. Once timid and quiet, today the 31-year-old is a leader inside the dressing room.

How many players are Belgium allowed to take to the 2022 World Cup?

National managers were allowed to bring 26 players to last summer’s European Championship for the first time at a major tournament, as a special measure brought in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now it has been announced that 26-player squads will return for the Qatar World Cup, an expansion from the usual 23-man teams.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1