In Brief

2018 World Cup: Radja Nainggolan retires after Belgium omission

Roma midfielder has been left out of the Belgium squad by Roberto Martinez

Belgium have named a strong 28-man preliminary squad for the 2018 Fifa World Cup but the omission of Roma star Radja Nainggolan has raised some eyebrows.

As expected Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has included star players such as Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne and Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku. There is no place for Nainggolan though.

Midfielder Nainggolan has been in superb form for Roma during their run to the Champions League semi-finals. After he was left out of the World Cup squad he announced his retirement yesterday from international football.

On Instagram, Nainggolan said: “Very reluctantly my international career comes to an end. I’ve always done everything I could to represent my country. Being yourself can be bothering. From this day on I will be the first fan.”

When asked about why he was leaving Nainggolan at home, Martinez said the decision was “tactical”, the BBC reports.

Martinez said: “Radja Nainggolan is a top player. The reason is tactical. In the past two years the team has worked in a specific manner. Other players had those roles. We know Radja has a very important role in his club and we cannot give him that role in our squad.”

Writing on the Independent website, Belgian football journalist Kristof Terreur said Nainggolan’s omission “puts Roberto Martinez under the microscope before Russia 2018 even begins”.

Terreur wrote: “Boos during the upcoming friendlies will just be something that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has to deal with. It is part of the job, of course, but Martinez made about as unpopular a call as they come by not selecting Radja Nainggolan in his squad for this summer’s World Cup.

“Talk will be all about Radja in Belgium over the next few days. Headline news, at that, despite being a player who only featured 96 minutes in a record-breaking qualification campaign and not even having been Belgium’s most important player.”

Belgium are in World Cup group G with England, Tunisia and Panama.

Belgium 28-man preliminary World Cup squad:

  • Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Matz Sels, Koen Casteels 
  • Defenders: Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Leander Dendoncker, Laurent Ciman, Christian Kabasele, Vincent Kompany, Jordan Lukaku, Thomas Meunier, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen 
  • Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco, Kevin De Bruyne, Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Dries Mertens, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel 
  • Forwards: Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku

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