BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Anderlecht left back Elias Cobbaut received a surprise call-up to the Belgium squad to play Russia and Cyprus this month as coach Roberto Martinez on Friday named a 29-man selection for their last two Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The 21-year-old defender makes the squad for the first time in place of injured veteran Jan Vertonghen, who with 118 appearances is Belgium’s most capped international.
Cobbaut was picked above Premier League-based defenders Bjorn Engels and Christian Kabasele, and Zinho Vanheusden of Standard Liege, who had all been in contention to replace both Vertonghen and Thomas Meunier, who has a hamstring tear.
Winger Maxime Lestienne, who was called up last month for the first time in six years but then had to withdraw because of injury, gets another comeback chance while forward Leandro Trossard is also back in the squad but Adnan Januzaj misses out.
Belgium, top of the FIFA world rankings, have won all eight of their Group I games and last month became the first team to secure qualification to the Euro 2020 finals.
They could still be toppled from first place in the group by Russia, who host them in St Petersburg next Saturday. Russia are second with seven wins from their eight matches.
Belgium complete their campaign at home to Cyprus in Brussels on Nov. 19.
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Racing Strasbourg), Hendrik van Crombrugge (Anderlecht)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Elias Cobbaut (Anderlecht), Jason Denayer (Olympique Lyonnais), Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe)
Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Timothy Castagne (Atalanta), Nacer Chadli (Anderlecht), Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Dennis Praet, Youri Tielemans (both Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Maxime Lestienne (Standard Liege), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool), Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht).
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)