Tottenham: Jan Vertonghen Improvement As Belgium Progress


The form of Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen has shown some improvement at the World Cup as Belgium make it through to the knock-out stages as group winners.

It was a far from satisfactory season for Jan Vertonghen at Tottenham. He helped his country, Belgium, through the qualifying stages to reach the World Cup Finals in Brazil but at White Hart Lane thinks weren’t as positive for him. After Spurs defence started the season in very miserly fashion things turned around amazingly quickly. Vertonghen started in his favoured central defensive position but injury to Danny Rose required him to once again move across to play at left-back.

While Vertonghen plays on the left side of the defence in international games, he is not totally comfortable there and as results slipped for Spurs, it was clear that he was not happy to be playing there. Heavy defeats, poor performances followed by injury and the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas left Vertonghen going in to 2014, in not the best frame of mind. When he regained his fitness in early February, Spurs had another poor run of results which ended for the Belgium defender with another injury at Anfield at the end of March.

His relations with manager, Tim Sherwood, were reported to be poor and he didn’t play for Tottenham again, failing to regain full fitness. Between the end of the season and the commencement of the World Cup, he recovered to play in the pre-tournament friendly matches for Belgium and started the opening game against Algeria.

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Jan Vertonghen World Cup Malaise

While Belgium won their opening game, it was not the best of matches for Jan Vertonghen. Playing at left back, he was caught napping when Algeria broke on the left. He allowed the Algerian misfield player to get past him into the area and when the ball was crossed into the box, Vertonghen pulled Sofiane Feghouli back to concede a penalty. Algeria scored to take an early unexpected lead and it wasn’t until late in the second half that Belgium recovered to score twice through their substitutes and claim their first win of the tournament.

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For the next match against Russia, Vertonghen along with the two other Tottenham players in the Belgium squad were dropped. In the pre-match warm-up, Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen who had been selected ahead of Vertonghen was injured but played for the first thirty minutes. He was replaced by Vertonghen. In another disappointing performance from Belgium it was another late goal by a substitute which took earned them the win.

Selected for the final match against South Korea, Vertonghen for the first time in the World Cup showed some of the form for which he is renown. In an early raid by South Korea he got back to cover not wanting to repeat his mistake from the first game. Playing at left back, his lack of pace is a problem when he goes forward as he struggles to get back into position if the move breaks down.

Jan Vertonghen Improvement

When Belgium were reduced to 10-men, just before half-time, it seemed to galvanise their defensive players who, including Vertonghen, were much quicker to the tackle, determined to prevent South Korea causing a shock. Vertonghen appeared to play with a greater appetite and commitment and it was he who, late in the game, got forward in support to score the only goal after the goalkeeper had pushed out the shot by Divock Origi, the scorer of the goal against Russia.

In spite of failing to impress with their performances, Belgium have won all three games, scoring 4 goals and conceding only one. One of 4 teams with maximum points and one of 3 teams who have conceded only one goal although of the qualifiers for the last 16, Belgium are joint lowest scorers with USA, Costa Rica and Uruguay. In the knock-out stages of the tournament Belgium will be hoping that Vertonghen continues to show improvement in his individual performances and that the team will come together as a unit to perform as they would want.