Belgium drops plans to call up Leeds defender Struijk

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Leeds United v Southampton - Elland Road, Leeds, Britain - February 23, 2021 Southampton's Che Adams in action with Leeds United's Pascal Struijk Pool via REUTERS/Laurence Griffiths E

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium has dropped plans to call up Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk for their opening World Cup qualifiers late this month, seeking to avoid any confrontation with neighbours the Netherlands, coach Roberto Martinez said.

The 21-year-old, born in Belgium but who has lived in the Netherlands since the age of three, had been earmarked for a possible call-up by Belgium and had applied for a passport last month after a discussion with Belgium's manager Martinez.

"But it the meantime it looks as if his heart lies with the Netherlands," Martinez said in an interview with Brussels newspaper La Derniere Heure.

"We have to respect that, never mind how interesting his profile is to us. I don’t want there to be any conflict between the two football associations."

As a result, the coach said he would not be in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Belarus, the Czech Republic and Wales. "It means the file on Struijk has been closed," he said.

But Martinez said he was considering a future call-up for Adrien Truffert of Stade Rennes. The 19-year-old Frenchman is one of the revelations of the Ligue 1 season and has been contacted by the Belgian federation after they discovered he was born in Liege.

Belgium takes on Wales in its opening World Cup qualifier in Leuven on March 24, followed by a match against the Czech Republic in Prague on March 27 and then a third Group E qualifier against Belarus at Leuven on March 30.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Barbara Lewis)

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