Belgian defender Alderweireld retires from international football

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Defender Toby Alderweireld, who was part of the so-called “golden generation” of Belgian players who finished third in the 2018 World Cup, is leaving international football, the Belgian federation announced on Monday.

Alderweireld, 34, who plays for Antwerp in the Belgian league after spells at Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Tottenham, made his debut for the national side in 2009.

He also took part in the 2014 and 2022 World Cups and couldn’t prevent the Red Devils from a group stage elimination last year.

“When I was little, I dreamed of playing for the national team. I am very grateful and proud that this dream has come true,” he said in a statement released by the federation. “I can look back, 14 years later, on 127 international matches, three World Cups, two European Championships and countless beautiful memories.”

Alderweireld said he will now spend more time with his family and focus on his club career in Antwerp.

“A very difficult decision, but the right one for me right now,” he said.

After failing to qualify for the knockout stage of the 2022 tournament, Belgium are now in a rebuilding phase under new coach Domenico Tedesco. He replaced Roberto Martinez, who led the team for six years.

The team was ranked No. 1 by FIFA for four years under Martinez’s tenure, but never won a major tournament.

Belgium begin their qualifying campaign for the European Championships on March 24 against Sweden.

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