Witsel announces end to 15-year Belgium international career

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Axel Witsel applauds fans after <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/belgium/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Belgium;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Belgium</a> lost to <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/morocco/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Morocco;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Morocco</a> on their way to elimination in the group stage in the 2022 World Cup
Axel Witsel applauds fans after Belgium lost to Morocco on their way to elimination in the group stage in the 2022 World Cup

Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel announced his international retirement on Friday, after playing 15 years and winning 130 caps with the Red Devils.

"After careful consideration, it is with great emotion that I have taken the decision to retire from international football," the 34-year-old Atletico Madrid player announced on social media.

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Witsel follows fellow thirtysomethings Eden Hazard, Toby Alderweireld and the number two goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in deciding to hang up the national shirt.

Only Jan Vertonghen, with 147 caps, has played more games for Belgium than Witsel.

In March, the defensive midfielder was omitted by new coach Domenico Tedesco from the squad to face Sweden,in the first game of the Euro-2024 qualifiers.

Tedesco showed his intention to rejuvenate the squad by discarding ten of the 26 players from the squad that was eliminated in the group phase at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

On Friday, on Twitter, Witsel wished "good luck to the new generation", while thanking all those who have allowed him to 'blossom' in the national team.

"It is important for me to spend more time with my family and focus on my club," he said.

A French-speaking Belgian, who began his professional career at Standard Liege, Witsel made a scoring debut for Belgium in  March 2008. He played in the 2014, 2018 and 2022 World Cups and the 2016 and 2020 Euros. He was part of the team that gained Belgium's best World Cup result with third place in Russia in 2018.

He joined Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2022 from Borussia Dortmund.