SAO PAULO (AP) — An injury to captain Vincent Kompany saved coach Marc Wilmots one decision ahead of Belgium's last group match, but may cause him more concern further into the World Cup.
Kompany led Belgium to victories over Algeria and Russia to qualify for the second round with a game to spare, the only blemish being a nagging groin strain that kept the Manchester City captain sidelined for a few days of training.
Barely half an hour into the last training session on the eve of Thursday's game against South Korea at Sao Paulo, Kompany had to withdraw again and even skipped a planned media appearance.
"He will not be able to play," Wilmots said late Wednesday, adding that defender Thomas Vermaelen will be out as well with a hamstring injury.
The two injuries "are not very serious but we want to keep them fresh and they won't play against South Korea."
Still, Kompany has a long history of injuries, and his absence in the buildup to the second-round game will further raise uncertainties about Belgium's preparedness for its first knockout game.
Wilmots said Kompany started feeling pain and immediately stopped training, trying to avoid aggravating the injury.
"It hurt a bit and he over-exercised perhaps a bit," Wilmots said.
Kompany is expected to have several days of special medical care to get ready for the second round.
His injury will likely give Nicolas Lombaerts his first appearance at the World Cup, joining 36-year-old veteran Daniel Van Buyten at the heart of the defense.