De Bruyne to Lead Belgium at Euro 2024 with Unretired Witsel 

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Final - Manchester City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 25, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne during the warm up before the match. (Reuters)
Soccer Football - FA Cup - Final - Manchester City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 25, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne during the warm up before the match. (Reuters)
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De Bruyne to Lead Belgium at Euro 2024 with Unretired Witsel 

Soccer Football - FA Cup - Final - Manchester City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 25, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne during the warm up before the match. (Reuters)
Soccer Football - FA Cup - Final - Manchester City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 25, 2024 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne during the warm up before the match. (Reuters)

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will lead a rejuvenated Belgium side including a once-retired Axel Witsel at the European Championship next month.

De Bruyne and Witsel were on the 25-man list unveiled by coach Domenico Tedesco on Tuesday. Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, preparing for the Champions League final, was not.

Defender Maxim De Cuyper, who won the Belgian league with Club Brugge last weekend, was the only newcomer.

De Bruyne and Witsel are remaining members of the so-called golden generation of Belgian players. While De Bruyne’s presence was expected, Witsel’s was a surprise after Tedesco dropped him from his first squad last year. Witsel soon after announced his retirement from international soccer and did not play in qualifying.

But Tedesco said Witsel’s recent excellent showings with Atletico Madrid convinced him the 35-year-old midfielder was the right choice. Tedesco also traveled to Spain to meet Witsel and discuss a comeback. There were no hard feelings, the coach said, and Witsel immediately agreed to return.

“First of all, it’s about the quality,” Tedesco said. “There is no doubt he is a high-quality player. We need him, he is an experienced player, he can help the young players. Either if he is playing or not, we have a good feeling with him.”

Witsel can play in midfield or defense, a versatility that increased his value.

“He has started to play as a central defender, it changed a lot,” Tedesco said. “As a (number) six, probably he would not be in the squad today. I have to be very transparent.”

Tedesco said Courtois was not ready for Euro 2024, which starts on June 14 in Germany, after recently returning from injury. The men have been at odds since a dispute last year, and Courtois announced in December he would miss the Euros.

“Of course, he knows his body the best,” Tedesco said about Courtois.

Tedesco succeeded Roberto Martinez as Belgium manager in February 2023. He has yet to lose a game in charge of the Red Devils.

Belgium will face Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine in Group E. Belgium’s best result at the continental tournament was runner-up in 1980.

Tedesco can still amend his squad before a June 7 deadline when teams must give UEFA a list with a minimum of 23 players and a maximum of 26. He said two extra “young” players will join the squad as training partners during the Euro preparations.

Tedesco said he had been following the left-footed De Cuyper closely since he took over as coach but the defender had so far been overlooked because of strong competition.

“The situation changed a little bit and we are open,” Tedesco said. “We have to choose the best players.”

Up front, strikers Romelu Lukaku and Lois Openda were chosen at the expense of Michy Batshuayi. Tedesco said it did not make sense to have Batshuayi in the squad knowing that Charles de Ketelaere, Dodi Lukebakio and Leandro Trossard can also cover his position.

“We did not see the necessity to take a third striker,” Tedesco said.



No Goals but Selfies for Ronaldo in Portugal's Chaotic 3-0 win over Türkiye at Euro 2024

The five-time world player of the year set up the third goal by Bruno Fernandes with an unselfish pass - The AP
The five-time world player of the year set up the third goal by Bruno Fernandes with an unselfish pass - The AP
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No Goals but Selfies for Ronaldo in Portugal's Chaotic 3-0 win over Türkiye at Euro 2024

The five-time world player of the year set up the third goal by Bruno Fernandes with an unselfish pass - The AP
The five-time world player of the year set up the third goal by Bruno Fernandes with an unselfish pass - The AP

There were no goals, one assist and no less than four selfie-pursuing field invaders for Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal's 3-0 win over Türkiye that secured a spot in the European Championship round of 16 on Saturday.

Ronaldo was the center of attention as always at Westfalenstadion but not how he might have expected.

The five-time world player of the year set up the third goal by Bruno Fernandes with an unselfish pass when he could easily have attempted a shot after being played clean through.

Then there was chaos as three fans got on the field at different times in the second half and attempted selfies with Ronaldo. He accepted the first but looked unhappy at the other two, The AP reported.

Another phone-waving supporter, wearing a Portugal jersey, got to Ronaldo moments after the final whistle and security had to hold back another person attempting to confront one of the most famous sports stars in the world as he walked off the field with his teammates.

Ronaldo might be more unhappy at failing to score against a Türkiye team that was its own worst enemy at times.

Not least in the 28th minute when, trailing 1-0 to Bernardo Silva’s strike seven minutes earlier, Türkiye center back Samet Akaydin delivered a back-pass that rolled to the side of his goalkeeper and straight into the net.

Portugal backed up its opening 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic and has qualified with a match to spare from Group F.