Roberto Martinez was forced to answer claims his final squad had been leaked on Saturday.
Belgian broadcasters had published footage (see below) which was claimed to show the squad’s mattresses for he World Cup along with name tags, with 23 showing it was claimed that the missing five names were those set to be left out of the 28 man preliminary squad.
These five were Newcastle goalkeeper Matz Sels, defenders Christian Kabasele and Jordan Lukaku, midfielder Leander Dendoncker and former Sunderland loan winger Adnan Januzaj.
Roberto Martinez insisted he hadn’t even decided on his final cut, never mind the squad mattresses already prepared.
Monday morning has seen Martinez name his ‘final’ squad and unless he has changed his plans purely because of the leaked squad on Saturday, he was telling the truth that the mattress tags story was wide of the mark.
Matz Sels, Christian Kabasele and Jordan Lukaku are indeed left out – but Dendoncker and Januzaj are included.
Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke instead finds himself left out, whilst it is either Vincent Kompany or Laurent Ciman who will also miss out.
Roberto Martniez has revealed that he doesn’t actually have to name his very final selection until Sunday 17 June, 24 hours before their first match against Panama.
So he has named 24 players now, hoping that Kompany will recover from injury, but with Ciman to be included if he doesn’t make it.
“We absolutely want Kompany and we are going to use the rules in our favor.
“The final selection must be made 24 hours before the first game against Panama (on Monday 18 June).
“Until then we will give Kompany the time and if he is not fit, Ciman will be his replacement.”
The 24 selected:
Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet, Koen Casteels
Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen, Thomas Meunier, Laurent Ciman, Dedryck Boyata
Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembélé, Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini, Yannick Carrasco, Nacer Chadli, Leander Dendoncker, Thorgan Hazard, Youri Tielemans
Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Michy Batshuayi, Adnan Januzaj
The four left out – Matz Sels, Christian Kabasele, Jordan Lukaku and Christian Benteke.
The Mag – Saturday 2 June 2018:
Newcastle goalkeeper Matz Sels has found himself inadvertently caught up in an embarrassing mattress incident ahead of Belgium’s World Cup campaign.
The keeper, who has been on loan at Anderlecht this past season, was named in the preliminary 28 man squad for Russia.
The final 23 man squad has to be named by 4 June at the very latest but Roberto Martinez looked set to leave it until the last minute.
However, what is now being termed ‘Mattress-Gate’ in Belgium, has intervened.
The Belgian broadcaster VRT has shown footage of what is said to be the squad’s mattresses, each of them labelled with a player’s name.
Only 23 mattresses shown in the footage (see image below) and so the Belgian media has by the powers of deduction named the five who are set to be dropped from the final 23 man squad.
As well as Matz Sels being one of those without a mattress, there are also defenders Christian Kabasele and Jordan Lukaku, midfielder Leander Dendoncker and former Sunderland loan winger Adnan Januzaj.
Roberto Martinez has claimed there is no truth in the Mattress exclusive but obviously great interest will be taken when he does name his final squad.
None of the five without mattresses were a surprise to the Belgian media, which gives the exclusive extra credibility.
Also, Martinez’ claims of ‘If I was pushed now to give the list, I would not be able to give it to you’ don’t exactly ring true.
Countries have tended to either name their 23 man squad early and have a four or five man standby list in case of injuries, as Gareth Southgate did.
Or, name a 27/28 man preliminary squad as both Belgium and Serbia did – but surely the end result is the same.
If naming a 28 man preliminary squad as Martinez has done, in effect he is really just doing the same, except his five standby players are named within the 28, with surely the manager already knowing by that stage which are the 23 and which are the five who are there in case of injury.
“I do not think there is a lot to explain.
“There is no truth whatsoever that the story is bringing light on the final 23.
“Is there a list that has been sent round to the partners? No. It is very clear there is no truth whatsoever behind the story.
“Then there is a little bit of disappointment. This is information that goes to the fans, to the players, to the players’ families.
“The truth is that we are unfortunately getting used to seeing stories that do not really affect us.
“Unfortunately we are not talking about Portugal and the effort that the players are putting in to becoming a stronger team.
“If I was pushed now to give the list, I would not be able to give it to you.”