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New Belgium coach Tedesco drops Witsel and Mertens for Euro 2024 qualifier

New Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco on Friday omitted Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens from the squad to face Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifier on March 24 and a friendly against Germany four days later.

After the international retirement of Eden Hazard, Simon Mignolet and Toby Alderweireld, Tedesco has plumped for a flush of youth to make up for the disappointment of Belgium’s first-round exit at last year’s World Cup in Qatar.

The 34-year-old Witsel, capped 130 times, is the biggest casualty of that policy, Tedesco saying the decision to drop the Atletico Madrid player was “extremely tough”.

“We have a lot of young midfielders and we want to see what they’re capable of,” added Tedesco.

“But I’m certainly not shutting the door on Axel. I hope he won’t retire from the international stage.”

Only two of the 24 squad members play in the Belgian league: the Anderlecht pair of Jan Vertonghen and Zeno Debast. Eight, meanwhile, ply their trade in the English Premier League.

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