17.03.2023 14:31 h

New Belgium coach Tedesco drops Witsel and Mertens for Euro 2024 qualifier

New Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco on Friday omitted Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens from the squad to face Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifier on March 24 and a friendly against Germany four days later.

After the international retirement of Eden Hazard, Simon Mignolet and Toby Alderweireld, Tedesco has plumped for a flush of youth to make up for the disappointment of Belgium's first-round exit at last year's World Cup in Qatar.

The 34-year-old Witsel, capped 130 times, is the biggest casualty of that policy, Tedesco saying the decision to drop the Atletico Madrid player was "extremely tough".

"We have a lot of young midfielders and we want to see what they're capable of," added Tedesco.

"But I'm certainly not shutting the door on Axel. I hope he won't retire from the international stage."

Only two of the 24 squad members play in the Belgian league: the Anderlecht pair of Jan Vertonghen and Zeno Debast. Eight, meanwhile, ply their trade in the English Premier League.

Squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg/GER), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid/ESP), Thomas Kaminski (Blackburn/ENG), Matz Sels (Strasbourg/FRA)

Defenders: Sebastiaan Bornauw (Wolfsburg/GER), Timothy Castagne (Leicester/ENG), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Wout Faes (Leicester/ENG), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Alexis Saelemaekers (AC Milan/ITA), Arthur Theate (Rennes/FRA), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht)

Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City/ENG), Romeo Lavia (Southampton/ENG), Orel Mangala (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Amadou Onana (Everton/ENG), Dennis Praet (Leicester/ENG)

Forwards: Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan/ITA), Jeremy Doku (Rennes/FRA), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan/ITA), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin/GER), Lois Openda (Lens/FRA), Leandro Trossard (Arsenal/ENG)