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John Chapman’s Belgium v Italy preview: De Bruyne’s fitness will be crucial

| 01.07.2021

Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Belgium throughout Euro 2020

Belgium’s preparation for their quarter final with Italy has been hampered by the doubts concerning Kevin De Bruyne (ankle) and Eden Hazard (hamstring). Before the team flew to Munich on Thursday, neither player had trained with the squad.

It does look like both players will be named in the 23, with De Bruyne being the more likely to start. However, Belgium’s line-up will be a closely guarded secret until kick-off time on Friday night.

Belgium eventually got the result they wanted against Portugal and if De Bruyne and Eden Hazard are fit to start, the team picks itself, except for the slight chance that the veteran Thomas Vermaelen could be rested after two games in quick succession, and he goes into the match with a yellow card by his name.

Historically, Italy have had the upper hand in major tournaments, with three victories and one draw. Belgium’s last victory in this clash was back in 1972, but those facts will be far from Martinez’s mind as he’ll be more concerned about the need for a Plan B.

Eden Hazard’s natural replacement is Yannick Carrasco, or perhaps Eden’s younger brother Thorgan could push forward with Nacer Chadli slotting in behind. As for De Bruyne, there are three options: the experience of Dries Mertens, the youthful exuberance of Jeremy Doku or the all-round game of Leandro Trossard.

If De Bruyne doesn’t feature, or minimally, I can’t separate the sides – so 1-1 after 120 minutes and penalties. If De Bruyne is there, I see Belgium winning by the odd goal.

Check out the latest Euro 2020 odds.



John Chapman

John has been on the Belgian beat since 1999 when the Manchester Evening News wanted someone ‘local’ to report on Manchester United’s tie-up with Royal Antwerp.

From there he joined the excellent team as their ‘Man in Belgium’. This put him in the front seats as the Belgium national team embarked on its long and epic journey to the top of the FIFA rankings.

Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, he worked for World Soccer, the Telegraph and When Saturday Comes, repeating the exercise in 2018. In-between, he covered the 2016 Euros in France, reporting on Belgium’s games for ESPN as well as providing content for FourFourTwo, World Soccer and others.

He has often spoken on BBC radio programmes, Sky, CNN and others, and provided information to Russian, Swedish, Finnish and American media. Interview highlights have been with a teenage Vincent Kompany, Sir Alex Ferguson on the United-Antwerp link-up and Phillipe Albert to discuss his best Belgian XI of all-time.