Belgian boss Martinez calls for Euro 2020 squads to be expanded to up to 27 players

By Samindra Kunti in Leuven

March 31 – Belgium national team coach Roberto Martinez has voiced his support to expand national team squads to 26, 27 players for Euro 2020, calling it “a necessity”.

At a news conference after Belgium’s mammoth 8-0 win against Belarus in World Cup qualifying, the Spaniard said: “The Belgian FA and I completely support the idea of increasing the squad numbers. It is something that is needed.

“It would mirror the changes that have been made in world football currently with the five substitutions and the uncertainty of the pandemic and the extra level of injuries. It would be a good solution to have extra players; that could be 26,27, an extra player per position. It is a good idea for UEFA to consider going forward.”

Martinez fielded a second-string side team to face Belarus to protect the fitness of some of his key personnel, including Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, but the world’s number one ranked team still ran out comfortable winners, smashing eight goals past their Group E opponents.

The coach pointed at injury risks after a demanding season and the uncertainty over Covid-19 as reasons to contemplate bigger squads at Euro 2020. “It has been a discussion between the coaches, between England, Italy, ourselves and other nations,” said Martinez.

“Everyone reacted in the same manner. It’s a necessity to try and add to the changes that have been made in the last year because of the pandemic and the chain reaction it has had, to the pressure of the players to play so much football. I don’t know if it has arrived at UEFA level.”

Earlier, Italy coach Roberto Mancini had cautioned over the lingering threat of Covid-19 for tournament football and a scenario that would leave coaches scrambling for players. “What if someone tests positive for corona at the European Championship?” Mancini told Italian broadcaster RAI. “It would be tricky to select another player because they will all be on holidays. It would be a good idea to expand squads to 25, 26 players. If you UEFA would take this decision, I would definitely be in favour.”

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1618088181labto1618088181ofdlr1618088181owedi1618088181sni@o1618088181fni1618088181