Monday, July 15, 2024

Belgium not concerned about lack of Euro 2024 backers, says Castagne

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 15 Jun 2024

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Belgium are not concerned about the lack of people touting them as one of the favourites to win Euro 2024, according to full-back Timothy Castagne.

Belgium’s so-called ‘golden generation’ have flattered to deceive at recent tournaments, a bronze medal at the 2018 World Cup being their best finish at any competition since they were runners-up at Euro 1980.

They were stunned by Wales in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, beaten by Italy at the same stage at Euro 2020 and succumbed to a group-stage exit at the last World Cup in Qatar.

They topped their qualification group for Euro 2024 – the sixth successive campaign in which they have done so – and are now unbeaten in 40 World Cup/Euros qualifiers (35 wins, five draws).

But with Thibaut Courtois left out of Domenico Tedesco’s squad and Eden Hazard retiring in the aftermath of their 2022 World Cup campaign, few are tipping the Red Devils for success in Germany.

That does not concern Castagne, who told reporters: “The group is a good mix of experience and youth.

“I’m not here to prove to you that we have a chance, it has to happen on the pitch.

“We don’t care if the outside world see us as a favourite. The most important thing is that we believe that we can achieve something beautiful.”

Prior to a ball being kicked at this year’s tournament, the Opta supercomputer gave Belgium a 4.7 per cent chance of winning their first major trophy, with seven nations seen as more likely champions.

Belgium’s preparations for Monday’s Group E opener against Slovakia, meanwhile, have been affected by fitness concerns.

Defenders Jan Vertonghen and Arthur Theate have been nursing knocks, while Axel Witsel – who is also expected to be used as a centre-back – trained alone on Friday.

“I’m not worried about the fact that there are some absentees. Everyone who will play is ready, there is enough quality,” Castagne added.

“We give it our all (in training), we were not extra careful because there are a lot of injured players. But of course, we won’t do stupid things. There’s no point in making unnecessary tackles.”

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