(Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld must get significant playing time ahead of the World Cup or his place in the Belgium side could come under threat, national team coach Roberto Martinez has said.
The 29-year-old centre back has made only two appearances for Tottenham since suffering a hamstring injury in November and lacked sharpness during Belgium’s 4-0 victory over Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Belgium will open their World Cup campaign against Panama on June 18 in Sochi. They will also face England and Tunisia in Group G.
“Every player needs to get a really good period of football now,” Martinez told reporters.
“Seven weeks is not a lot of time. Certain players that play a lot of minutes, the playing time now is not essential. But other players who have not played that much, and Toby can be one of those – it is important.
“But what you see with Toby is that urgency and the defensive, natural habit of intercepting any threat around him... it was great to see that he was really strong in the last 15 minutes physically.”
Davinson Sanchez stepped in to Alderweireld’s spot in the Spurs defence and has been keeping the Belgian on the sidelines. Currently fourth in the Premier League, Spurs visit Chelsea, one spot below them, on Sunday.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru