Soccer-Witsel ready to repay Belgium coach’s faith

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Bundesliga - TSG 1899 Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund - PreZero Arena, Sinsheim, Germany - October 17, 2020 TSG 1899 Hoffenheim's Diadie Samassekou in action with Borussia Dortmund's Axel Witsel REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach DFL regulations prohibit any use of photographs as image sequences and/or quasi-video.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel said he will do all he can to be ready for the European Championship and repay the faith shown in him by coach Roberto Martinez.

The 32-year-old, who has won 110 caps, was included in Martinez's 26-man squad for next month’s tournament despite not having played since January.

Witsel suffered an Achilles tendon tear and underwent surgery after sustaining the injury playing in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund.

"I feel such great emotion and pride to be selected in the national squad for this summer’s tournament,” Witsel tweeted.

"There is still work for me to do but I am on track and doing everything I can to get there.”

Martinez is taking a gamble on Witsel’s fitness, with the initial projection having him sidelined for eight to nine months.

"In the situation of Axel, we need to be very clear. We don't expect anything,” said Martinez on Monday when he made his squad announcement.

“This is just a reward for what he's done for the national team, his career and the good work that he's done in the last months. We've got real trust in our medical department.

“But the real decision with Axel Witsel will be on June 11 and we're going to try to get as much time as we can to make the final decision. We need to allow Axel to have the time to carry on working. At that point, we'll see if he's fit or not.”

Belgium open their Group B campaign against Russia in St Petersburg on June 12.

“Axel deserves to be in the squad for what he's done and the work that he's done medically. We feel very confident that he could have a big role in the European Championship," the coach added.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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