Belgium have been handed a big blow on the eve of their EURO 2016 quarterfinal against Wales as Jan Vertonghen has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.
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Vertonghen, 29, has started all four of Belgium’s games at left back and now Marc Wilmots will have to reshuffle his back line ahead of the game in Lille on Friday.
Tottenham’s central defender tore two ligaments in his left ankle after twisting it in a training session and is expected to miss at least 6-8 weeks.
That means he is also likely to miss most of Tottenham’s preseason and the first few games of the 2016-17 Premier League campaign.
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The former Ajax man has been a pivotal figure for Belgium in recent years and his absence could thrust Jordan Lukaku — that’s right, Romelu’s brother — into the limelight as Thomas Vermaelen is suspended. That means Jason Denayer will likely play at center back with Lukaku on the left, as Belgium is of course also missing captain and center back Vincent Kompany through injury.
Eden Hazard, the vice-captain, spoke about Vertonghen’s absence at Belgium’s press conference in Lille ahead of the showdown with Wales.
“I am used to playing with Jan up the left flank. We’ll have to adapt. We hope we’ll be ready tomorrow night,” Hazard said.
Wales could’ve just been handed a huge boost in their quest to reach the semifinals of EURO 2016 as Gareth Bale and Co. will face a makeshift Belgium defense.
It’s worth noting these two teams met in the qualifying stages, with Wales beating Belgium 1-0 in Cardiff and also drawing 0-0 against them in Brussels.