Belgian doubts abound over Vermaelen, Kompany
Vincent Kompany (AFP)
Sochi - Belgium will be without defensive stalwarts Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany when they kick off their World Cup campaign against Panama on Monday.
Coach Roberto Martinez admitted that neither player is in a position to feature in the Group G encounter in Sochi, and could both sit out their second game too. Yet both are likely to remain part of the squad in Russia.
"Thomas Vermaelen has improved very well, a little bit like we expected," Martinez said of the Barcelona man, who has been out since the middle of last month with a hamstring problem.
"He won't be involved against Panama, and then there is going to be a decision to try to use him accordingly when we see his match fitness.
"I think medically he could be fit for the next two games."
Meanwhile, Manchester City skipper Kompany is still trying to shake off the groin injury he suffered against in a warm-up friendly against Portugal two weeks ago.
"With Vinny Kompany we will take until tomorrow (Sunday) to make the final call. We are very confident as well with the progress he has made since the Portugal game, that he will be available to be involved in the third game of the group phase."
That means Kompany would also sit out Belgium's game against Tunisia next weekend, but would be back for their potentially crucial last group encounter against England in Kaliningrad on June 28.
Despite the defensive uncertainties, Martinez was happy for standby option Laurent Ciman to leave the team's Russian base this weekend.
Ciman, of Los Angeles FC in MLS, flew back to Belgium from Moscow rather than come with the Red Devils to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the team arrived on Saturday.
"The decision was taken to allow Lolo to return to Brussels rather than take a flight to Sochi," Martinez said.
"If he is needed he will be ready to join the team straight away. We wanted Laurent to be prepared, and now it's just a phone call and he can come straight into the group."