Tottenham Hotspur and Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen will miss Friday night's (1 July) Euro 2016 quarter-final tie against Wales through injury. The versatile centre-back tore two of three external ankle ligaments while controlling the ball during a recent training session and is now expected to be sidelined for between six to eight weeks.
Such a cruel blow means that Vertonghen will almost certainly be sidelined for the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season. He formed arguably the best defensive pairing in English football last term alongside compatriot Toby Alderweireld, but missed two-and-half months of the run-in after damaging the medial collateral ligament in his knee during a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace in January.
The 29-year-old, who traditionally plays as a left-back for his country, started all four of Belgium's opening matches at the European Championship as Marc Wilmots' much-fancied side opened their Group E campaign with a hugely disappointing defeat to Italy before thumping the Republic of Ireland and narrowly edging past Sweden.
They booked their place in the last eight with a slightly flattering 4-0 win over Hungary in Toulouse that featured goals from Alderweireld, Chelsea-bound Michy Batshuayi, captain Eden Hazard and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco.
News of Vertonghen's injury first emerged on Thursday afternoon and was later confirmed by Wilmots at his pre-match press conference. As quoted by BBC Sport, he said: "I was about to whistle for the end of training, he received a ball in front of me and fell to the ground his clutching left ankle. It will take six to eight weeks."
Having already lost regular skipper Vincent Kompany before Euro 2016 as well as Nicolas Lombaerts and Dedryck Boyata, Belgium are facing something of a defensive crisis against Wales with Thomas Vermaelen suspended after collecting his second yellow card last weekend. Manchester City's former Galatasaray loanee Jason Denayer is likely to start alongside Jordan Lukaku, younger brother of first-choice striker Romelu.
"I still have a few alternatives to replace Jan. I will think it through and we will decide tomorrow," Wilmots said.
Hazard, meanwhile, has declared himself fit to start after sustaining a thigh issue against Hungary. He was initially forced to miss training before returning to action this morning. Wales leader Ashley Williams has recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in the narrow defeat of Northern Ireland in Paris.