Belgium's head coach, Domenico Tedesco, has announced his 25-player squad for Euro 2024. UEFA confirmed earlier this month that squad sizes have been increased from 23 to 26 players for this year's eagerly anticipated continental tournament, and all squads must include at least three goalkeepers. While most nations initially selected a larger group of players for pre-tournament friendlies, Tedesco took a different approach, finalizing his squad earlier. However, there are four notable absentees from the roster. Let's take a closer look at these key exclusions.

Thibaut Courtois

Despite recovering from significant injuries, including an ACL tear in his left knee and damage to the internal meniscus in his right knee, Thibaut Courtois will not be part of Belgium's Euro 2024 squad. The Real Madrid goalkeeper returned to action on May 4 but will miss the tournament due to a bitter public dispute with coach Domenico Tedesco.

The fallout began last summer when Tedesco claimed that Courtois missed a Euro 2024 qualifier against Estonia because he was upset about not being given the captain's armband. Tedesco stated, “I tried everything to take him to the European Championship this summer, but the last thing I heard was that he didn't feel ready to go.” Courtois responded on social media with three Pinocchio emojis, effectively calling Tedesco a liar, and expressed his ongoing anger over the “breach of trust.” Given the accusations and the bitter nature of their relationship, Courtois' recall seems unlikely as long as Tedesco is in charge.

Dries Mertens

Dries Mertens, a key figure in Belgium's ‘golden generation,' has also been omitted from the squad. The 35-year-old has 109 caps and has been a crucial player for Belgium over the last decade. However, Tedesco has decided to move in a new direction, signaling a shift from relying on veterans. Mertens' exclusion is attributed to a lack of match fitness, as he has recently struggled to maintain his form and physical condition.

Axel Witsel

Alongside Mertens, 33-year-old Axel Witsel has also been left out of the squad. Witsel, another stalwart of Belgium's ‘golden generation,' has earned 130 caps for his country and has been an integral part of the team's midfield for many years. Tedesco's decision to exclude Witsel aligns with his strategy to rejuvenate the squad following Belgium's disappointing World Cup performance in Qatar, where they exited in the group stage despite high expectations.

Michy Batshuayi

Michy Batshuayi, known for scoring prowess with 27 goals in 55 appearances for Belgium, will also miss Euro 2024. The 30-year-old striker had a decent season with Fenerbahce, ending with 12 goals despite only making four starts. However, Batshuayi's recent injury has prevented him from making the final cut. His absence leaves a gap in Belgium's attacking options, but Tedesco appears confident in the remaining forwards in the squad.

Euro 2024 Belgium

Belgium's new direction

Tedesco's decisions reflect a broader strategy to reshape the team and move past the disappointing outcomes of recent tournaments. The exclusion of key veterans like Mertens and Witsel indicates a focus on integrating younger talents and building a squad capable of performing at the highest level. Belgium will open their Euro 2024 campaign against Sweden in Stockholm on June 16, followed by a match against Germany in Cologne on March 28.

Belgium's fans and football analysts will watch closely how Tedesco's new approach pans out. With high hopes and a fresh strategy, the team aims to overcome past shortcomings and make a strong showing at Euro 2024. The tournament presents an opportunity for Belgium to redefine its legacy and potentially claim its first major men's trophy in nearly six decades.