Vincent Kompany injury has given Jason Denayer a chance to shine in the Euros
What a loss for Belgium and Marc Wilmots to be deprived of their talismanic captain just a few weeks before the start of the European Championships in France! No one can ideally replace Vincent Kompany as a player, captain and individual. An astute leader and a calming influence at the back for the Red Devils, Manchester City defender Kompany will be missed by Belgian fans and his teammates alike.
Yet former player and coach Marc Wilmots has to decide on an individual who will deputise in place of Kompany in France where Belgium face Italy, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden in Group E.
A tough physical looking group makes it all the more necessary to have a calm head and a strong personality at the centre of defence to face the tall and physical strikers of Italy, Sweden and Ireland and these three teams will employ counter attacking defensive tactics to neutralise Belgium’s free flowing football.
Young Manchester City defender Jason Denayer seems to be the player to replace the irreplaceable Vincent Kompany at centre-back after impressing Marc Wilmots in his two loan spells at Celtic and presently at Turkish giants Galatasaray.
Already a League Cup and Scottish Premiership winner with Celtic, Denayer has impressed the likes of Patrick Viera and Marc Wilmots with assured performances in crunch matches both for Celtic and Galatasaray. It is not surprising to note that it was on the advice of Vincent Kompany that Manchester City gave the 20-year-old a chance to graduate from the thriving Manchester City Academy.
Very similar to the way Kompany operates on the field, Jason Denayer is strong in the tackle and very assured in ball possession thus having a calming influence on his defensive partners and goalkeeper. Capped four times by Belgium, it will be a huge step forward for Denayer to be starting for Belgium at the heart of the defence come 13th of June when the Red Devils meet Italy in Lyon.
"Denayer is the replacement for Kompany to me," confirmed Marc Wilmots while announcing his 24-man provisional squad for the European Championships, a clear signal that the young defender is highly rated at the very highest level of Belgian professional football. Jason Denayer himself knows that replacing his idol and captain on the pitch is a hard enough job let alone the pressure of expectations of a whole nation that will come with it.
However, the former RSC Anderlecht academy player knows this is a big time opportunity to lay his mark in Belgian football.
While Belgians reflect on Vincent Kompany’s injury, it is also important to note that the country has a good emerging talent to step into the mighty shoes of the 30-year-old injury-hit Belgian captain.
The only thing that is however, going to handicap Wilmots and Belgium is the fact that Denayer lacks the big international exposure but then again opportunity turns boys into men and with an added responsibility of being the first choice centre back in the upcoming European Championships, we might see the emergence of a young talented player in the international scene.
With good performances for Galatasaray on his back and a national manager publicly giving his backing for a young talent, Vincent Kompany’s injury might galvanise a whole team to work together to get out of a tough group and into the knockout stages.
Marc Wilmots has selected an attacking minded squad who he hopes will be good enough to firstly protect his defenders much more. And secondly to break down three prospective defensive-minded sides in the form of Italy, Ireland and Sweden although all these teams have enough attacking ammunition to give the Belgians an almighty headache and Denayer would be the centre of focus to neutralise them.
Provisional Belgium squad for UEFA EURO 2016
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Jean-François Gillet (Mechelen), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Jason Denayer (Galatasaray), Bjorn Engels (Club Brugge), Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit), Jordan Lukaku (Oostende), Thomas Meunier (Club Brugge), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Marouane Fellaini (Man Utd), Radja Nainggolan (Roma), Axel Witsel (Zenit), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea).
Forwards: Moussa Dembélé (Tottenham), Michy Batshuayi (Marseille), Christian Benteke (Liverpool), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool).
Stand-by: Nacer Chadli (midfielder, Tottenham), Laurent Ciman (defender, Montreal), Laurens De Bock (defender, Club Brugge), Guillaume Gillet (midfielder, Nantes), Thorgan Hazard (midfielder, Mönchengladbach), Kevin Mirallas (forward, Everton), Matz Sels (goalkeeper, Gent).