Belgium playmaker Kevin De Bruyne is fit to play against Denmark today and make a much anticipated entry into the European Championship, coach Roberto Martinez said.
De Bruyne suffered a double facial fracture in last month’s Champions League final, missing Belgium’s build-up to Euro 2020 and their first Group B game against Russia on Saturday, when they posted an impressive 3-0 victory.
“He is medically fit, he has the green light to be in a match situation,” Martinez told a news conference yesterday.
“Now it is a question of seeing how long Kevin can play and how we can use the two games we have in five day to get him up to full fitness. I’ve been very pleased with the progress he has made and every day he makes a big difference. I could add Axel Witsel is in the same situation and it’s a little different for Eden Hazard because he was already involved in the friendly against Croatia and the game against Russia,” he added.
“We want every player to be up to 90-minute fitness in the two games we have ahead,” Martinez added.
Belgium’s final group game is against Finland in St Petersburg on Monday. De Bruyne, 29, broke his nose and an eye socket after a clash with Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger as Manchester City lost the final on May 29.
He underwent surgery five days later and spent a week recovering at home before joining up with the Belgian squad last week. Witsel, 32, is set for a surprise return after tearing an Achilles tendon in January while playing for Borussia Dortmund.
After undergoing surgery, he was told it would be nine months before he could play again, but Martinez said Witsel’s disciplined rehabilitation has allowed him to return way ahead of schedule. Hazard, 30, had an injury-plagued season at Real Madrid but was used as a substitute against Russia and showed some of his old sparkle in a 20-minute cameo.
Denmark clash ‘not the same’ without Eriksen, says Martinez
Martinez said that Belgium’s match with Denmark won’t be the same without Christian Eriksen on the pitch as he recovers from his dramatic mid-match collapse. Belgium line up today at the Parken Stadium where Eriksen had to be revived by medics at the weekend following his sudden fall, and Martinez said he and his players wanted to pay tribute to the Danish playmaker ahead of the Group B match.
“As a team there is a real intention just to show our wishes and thoughts to Christian,” Martinez told reporters, adding that his team would make “some sort of gesture” at the start of the game.
“Our message is football is not the same if Christian Eriksen is not on the football pitch. All we want is a full recovery and to see Christian very, very soon on the Danish team and for Inter Milan and everyone in Belgium is joining into those wishes.”
The fans at the Parken Stadium will stage a minute’s applause in the 10th minute of the game in support of Eriksen. “We need to celebrate the quick action from the doctors to make it such a speedy reaction,” said Martinez. “Every player who is going to be on that pitch is going to know the importance (of the game) and what’s at stake and the focus will shift quite quickly. But it should be a celebration from everyone.”
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored twice in their 3-0 win over Russia and shouted a message of support to Eriksen into a pitchside camera, said the players would kick the ball out of play for the minute’s applause.
“After 10 minutes of the match we’ll put the ball into touch to applaud,” said Lukaku, a teammate of Eriksen at Inter Milan. “Several of our players have played with him. But tomorrow we’ll be there to win the game, which promises to be difficult.”
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