Euro 2016 boost for Wales as Belgium suffer Vertonghen injury blow
Key defender is ruled out for rest of tournament after twisting his ankle
Belgium have been dealt a major blow ahead of their Euro 2016 quarter-final against Wales after defender Jan Vertonghen was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury.
The Tottenham Hotspur defender, 29, tore ligaments in his left ankle in training on Thursday, with coach Marc Wilmots saying that he could be out for up to two months as a result.
Vertonghen spent a spell on the sidelines earlier this year after suffering a knee ligament injury playing for Tottenham.
“He should be out for between six and eight weeks,” Wilmots said at a press conference in Lille, where Friday’s match will be played.
“He had the same injury three or four months ago and took six weeks to come back. It depends on his rehabilitation and everything that follows.”
If Vertonghen is out for eight weeks he would not return until possibly the start of September and could therefore miss Tottenham’s first three games of the next Premier League season.
“Gutted to say that my Euros is over. Good luck to my teammates for the rest of the competition,” Vertonghen wrote on Twitter.
The incident happened in freak circumstances during Belgium’s final training session at their base near Bordeaux before they travelled north to Lille, where Friday’s match against Wales will be played.
“I was about to blow the whistle at the end of training and then in front of my eyes he takes the ball on his right foot and falls to the ground. He had gone over on his left ankle,” said Wilmots.
“He has been for a scan here in Lille so he has torn two out of three external ligaments. So that means his Euro is over.
“I am not going to talk about it being a tragedy because there are more important things in life, but it is a sporting tragedy for him.”
Losing Vertonghen adds to Wilmots’ selection problems in defence for the Wales game, with Barcelona centre-back Thomas Vermaelen having already been ruled out of the game due to suspension.
Belgium had already lost captain Vincent Kompany and fellow defenders Nicolas Lombaerts and Dedryck Boyata to injury before the start of the tournament.
When asked earlier about the reports of Vertonghen’s absence, Wales coach Chris Coleman said: “He’s an outstanding performer. So if he misses the game, it’s a big loss for Belgium. But they’ve got so much talent.”
Jason Denayer of Manchester City is expected to deputise for Vermaelen while Vertonghen, who has played at left-back for his country at Euro 2016, is likely to be replaced by Jordan Lukaku, the 21-year-old younger brother of striker Romelu.
Laurent Ciman, who plays in Major League Soccer for Montreal Impact, is another option to come into the back line.
There was better news for Belgium on Thursday as captain Eden Hazard returned to training for the first time since Sunday’s 4-0 win over Hungary in the last 16.
He had been struggling with a minor groin problem but the Belgian captain is set to start the match at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, home to the French Ligue 1 club where he began his career.
“I managed to train this morning and I didn’t really feel anything. We have another 24 hours until the match so will make the most of that to have some more treatment,” Hazard said.