New national coach also brings PSV player Bakayoko to Red Devils selection
While the Dutch national team begins a new chapter under Ronald Koeman in Paris on Friday night, a new era is also dawning for the Belgian team. Under new national coach Domenico Tedesco, the World Cup debacle in Qatar must be quickly forgotten.
Tedesco wants to do that with a fresh selection full of young talent. On Tuesday morning, he added 19-year-old PSV player Johan Bakayoko, never called up before, to his selection. Bakayoko is the replacement for the injured Jéremy Doku.
Bakayoko is getting regular playing time at PSV this season from coach Ruud van Nistelrooij. In 16 matches in the premier league, the Belgian scored five goals and provided three assists. During the last transfer period, French top club Paris Saint-Germain made an offer totaling 15 million euros (including bonuses) for the striker. PSV, however, turned that down.
The Red Devils were eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup back in November, and the criticism wasn’t soft. The players, who were visibly full of frustration, were said to be too old and Spanish national coach Roberto Martínez stuck to the calibrated names for too long.
Perhaps not so crazy of Martínez, since with those veterans he finished third at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, among others. Still, Peter Vandenbempt, sports journalist for Belgian broadcaster VRT, thinks that the Spaniard should have already intervened after the 2021 European Championship. He is therefore pleased that a “change in style” is immediately visible under Tedesco.
Unlike his predecessor, the Italian-German Tedesco, who was fired by RB Leipzig in September, works with fewer players as well as a smaller staff. Vandenbempt: “Thirty players were called up before. Then, for example, an unfit Hazard could train with Belgium and also recharge himself mentally.”
That is no longer the case: Tedesco opts for a group of 24 players. And for fewer coaching staff. “Under Martínez, there were more staffers than Red Devils walking on the field,” he said.
Vandenbempt also applauds Tedesco’s clarity. “For example, he firmly proclaimed that injured striker Michy Batshuayi, previously a regular selection member, was not on the list. Of course, you are used to Louis van Gaal, but for six years with Martínez we had someone who always circled the pot in a big bow.”
‘It’s not going to be as good as 2018’
In addition, Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens, who were part of the “golden generation,” were passed over by the new coach.
Because Toby Alderweireld and Eden Hazard had already thanked themselves for the national team, Belgium’s selection will have a new face. “There are plenty of new talents among them. Especially in midfield and forward. We just shouldn’t compare the squad to the 2018 squad. It probably won’t be that good.”
It is also striking that the selection of our southern neighbors includes only two players from their own league. To the displeasure of the technical director of KRC Genk, Belgium’s frontrunner. “I am devout (dissatisfied. ed),” Dimitri de Condé said in Het Laatste Nieuws. “We will start to evaluate our cooperation with the league. I think this is a total lack of respect toward our club.”
According to Vandenbempt, that has been the only firm opposition to the new coach. “Other than that, the initial reactions were fairly neutral.”
Löw and Bosz
The Belgians had secretly hoped for a big(er) name as coach. “Joachim Löw was still mentioned. The big names don’t want to or are too expensive. The Belgian trainers who qualify for the job, such as Monaco coach Philippe Clement, are comfortable with their clubs.”
And so Tedesco, who was also previously trainer of Schalke 04 and Spartak Moscow, among others, came after a vacancy was posted. “He was the first choice. Peter Bosz the second.”
Vandenbempt stressed that he is confident about the period ahead. “We still have Kevin De Bruyne at our disposal. One of the best players in the world.”