BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has given Vincent Kompany two weeks to recover from a groin injury in time for the World Cup, retaining the Manchester City captain in his squad but putting Laurent Ciman on standby for the tournament in Russia.
Coach Roberto Martinez had been expected to cut his initial 28-man squad by five players on Monday but instead named 24, including central defender Kompany.
Martinez said that World Cup rules allowed the final squad to be named 24 hours before they kick off their campaign. Belgium play Panama on June 18 before facing other Group G opponents Tunisia and England.
A fit Kompany would greatly enhance Belgium’s chances. Not only is he a key part of their defense and an attacking threat from corners and free kicks but also a leader on the pitch.
“We’re going to use the rules to extend the deadline for making a decision like this,” Martinez told a news conference.
The 32-year-old Kompany came off during Belgium’s friendly against Portugal on Saturday with an injured groin.
He was due to have a scan on Monday, but Martinez said that talks with Manchester City staff had suggested that the full picture would only be clear later.
“I don’t think the scan is going to be conclusive in any shape or form. It’s going to be the next seven-10 days. We got the experience of similar niggles that he had in the past and the initial scan does not reveal the truth,” he said.
The three-times Premier League winner has suffered from frequent injuries throughout his career and missed out on Euro 2016, although had been playing for his club since the start of this year.
The four players cut are goalkeeper Matz Sels, defenders Christian Kabasele and Jordan Lukaku and striker Christian Benteke, who scored just three goals for Crystal Palace in the past season.
Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi will go as Belgium’s number nines.
Prior to the World Cup, Belgium play friendly warm-up matches against Egypt on Wednesday and Costa Rica next Monday.
The 24-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg).
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City).
Midfielders: Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Nacer Chadli (West Bromwich Albion), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur).
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea/Dortmund), Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli).
Standby player: Laurent Ciman (Los Angeles FC).
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg