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Belgium injury crisis should give Jeremy Doku the chance to shine against Italy

Tom Gott
Jeremy Doku could help with Belgium's injury crisis
Jeremy Doku could help with Belgium's injury crisis / Vincent Van Doornick/Isosport/MB Media

Belgium face the prospect of going into their Euro 2020 quarter-final tie against Italy without both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.

The two superstars picked up injuries in the last-16 victory over Portugal and have only been able to manage very minimal training before Friday's game. The chances of them featuring at all are slim, let alone starting.

That's obviously not ideal, but let's look at the positives. There could be two holes to fill behind Romelu Lukaku, and Rennes starlet Jeremy Doku may well end up taking one of them.

We've already seen a glimpse of what Doku can offer this summer. The teenager has largely been glued to the bench but was given a run-out in the final group game against Finland, in which Doku almost stole the show.

In his 75 minutes, Doku was Belgium's brightest spark on the pitch. He was a real threat in attack, driving at defenders and wreaking the kind of havoc he made a regular occurrence during his time with Anderlecht earlier in his career.

Jeremy Doku, Tim Sparv
Doku shone against Finland / Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

He might not have De Bruyne's vision or Hazard's movement, but Doku has the same kind of game-changing talent which could be absolutely crucial to Belgium's hopes of finally coming good on their potential.

The left side of Italy's defence could be seen as a weak spot. Leonardo Spinazzola has been outstanding all summer but is susceptible to getting caught out of position because of his responsibility in attack, and he may struggle to get back if he is chasing a speed demon like Doku.

Should Doku get by Spinazzola, he'll fancy himself in a foot race against whichever centre-back he comes face-to-face with. None of Giorgio Chiellini, Francesco Acerbi or Alessandro Bastoni will want anything to do with his agility.

It's that movement which could see Doku given the nod by Roberto Martinez. Yannick Carrasco and Dries Mertens are both impressive dribblers, but neither possesses the same level of explosive agility as Doku, whose uncanny ability to beat a defender sets him apart from the rest.

Doku has long been billed as the potential heir to Hazard's throne in the Belgian national team, and this feels a lot like it could be passing-of-the-torch moment.

He has never played in a match as big as the quarter-final of a European Championship against Italy, but Doku will not shy away from the occasion, knowing that one big performance could take his career to a whole new level.

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