Belgium has chance to have Kompany, Vermaelen in group stage

June 16, 2018

SOCHI, Russia (AP) Belgium could have defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany back from injury during World Cup group stage, but the team is waiting until the final deadline before setting its 23-man roster.

Vermaelen could be ready for the final two group games, and the target for Kompany is Belgium's final game against England, coach Roberto Martinez said Saturday night after Belgium trained in Sochi.

''Thomas Vermaelen has improved really well. A little bit like we expected,'' Martinez said. ''He's not going to be involved in the game against Panama and that is going to be a decision to see about using him accordingly depending on his match fitness. Medically I think he could be fit for the next two games.''

Belgium opens the tournament Monday against Panama.

Vermaelen did not travel with the team to Sochi and remained in Moscow to continue rehabilitating a hamstring injury he suffered last month with Barcelona.

Kompany suffered a groin injury in a warm-up match against Portugal earlier this month, continuing a long history of injuries. Martinez said the team will wait until Sunday's roster deadline before making a final decision on Kompany.

Perhaps as a sign of Martinez's confidence in the health of Kompany and Vermaelen, reserve Laurent Ciman was sent back to Brussels on Saturday to await the final roster decision. Ciman had been added to the camp after Kompany's injury.

''With Kompany we're going to take through tomorrow to make the final call as we follow through the procedure,'' Martinez said. ''We are 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.''

Martinez said if the team determines Sunday that either player is unavailable, Ciman would be recalled and join the team again in Moscow.

''We wanted Laurent to be prepared knowing that with a phone call he can come in and go straight into the group,'' Martinez said. ''He's been a pristine professional.''