BRUSSELS (AP): Defender Toby Alderweireld, who was part of Belgium’s so-called “Golden Generation” of players who finished third at the 2018 World Cup, is quitting international soccer, the Belgian federation said on Monday.
The 34-year-old Alderweireld, who plays for Antwerp in the Belgian league after stints at Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Tottenham, made his debut with the national squad in 2009.
He also took part in the 2014 and 2022 World Cups and could not prevent the Red Devils from an elimination in the group stage last year.
“As a little boy I dreamed of playing for the national team. I am very grateful and proud that this dream has become a reality,” 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 dedicate more time to his family and focus on his club career with Antwerp.
“A very difficult decision, but the right one for me at the moment,” he said.
After failing to progress to the knockout stage of the 2022 tournament, Belgium is now in a rebuilding phase under new coach Domenico Tedesco. He replaced Roberto Martinez, who was in charge of the team for six years.
The team was ranked No. 1 by FIFA for four years during Martinez’s tenure but never won a major tournament.
Belgium starts its qualifying campaign for the European Championships on March 24 against Sweden.