'Premier League helped Belgium'
Belgium internationals Jan Vertonghen and Kevin De Bruyne have singled out the Premier League as a major factor in helping them qualify for the World Cup.
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Twelve of the players named in Belgium boss Marc Wilmots squad for the win against Croatia on Friday night, which saw the country qualify for its first major tournament since 2002, are plying their trade in the English top-flight. While a 13th, Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, is owned by Chelsea.
Vertonghen has become a central part of Tottenham’s defence since a move from Ajax in 2012, and he believes that experience has aided the teams’ development.
"In the last couple of years our players have developed in the great leagues, especially in England. Every single position is doubled up," Vertonghen is quoted as saying in the Sun.
"Playing in the Premier League brings with it experience; before we all played in the smaller leagues, now we play in the Premier League.
"With the experience we gain we are capable of playing in the big games as we showed against Croatia."
After a loan spell with Werder Bremen, De Bruyne has begun to establish himself with Chelsea this season.
He also believes the high level of competition in the Premier League is a factor in Belgium’s success.
"The Premier League is probably the best in the world so if you have a lot of players who play well there, it’s normal that they are going to grow as players," he said.