Belgium face Russia in UEFA EURO 2020 Group B – all you need to know
The top national team in the world according to FIFA’s rankings, Belgium come into EURO 2020 eager to prove their class, having unexpectedly bowed out in the quarter-finals in 2016 against surprise package Wales. The Red Devils are unbeaten in seven games against Russia, but can expect no gifts from their hosts in St Petersburg.
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Denayer; Meunier, Dendoncker, Tielemans, T Hazard; Mertens, Lukaku, Doku
Russia: Shunin; Mário Fernandes, Barinov, Dzhikiya, Semenov, Karavaev; Zobnin, Ozdoev, Golovin; Miranchuk; Dzyuba
Alyssa Saliou, Belgium reporter: Belgium definitely have the talent to win UEFA EURO 2020, let alone this game, but much could depend on how they adjust to the absences of some key players. Eden Hazard is unlikely to start, while Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel will not feature at all in Saint Petersburg as they nurse injuries back at Belgium’s base.
Artur Petrosyan, Russia reporter: Russia are expected to take a cautious approach, which is seen as the only way to get something out of the opening game. After the 1-0 friendly win against Bulgaria, Stanislav Cherchesov promised his team would look physically sharper when EURO kicks off, and that will be crucial. At their best, Russia are a dangerous counterattacking side – and they will need to be at their best in Saint Petersburg.
What the coaches say
Roberto Martinez, Belgium coach: “I agree that the first game is often the most difficult in a big tournament. You have to get into the tournament both mentally and physically. It’ll be a real test, because we know this team very well, but they also know us by heart and they’ll have the support of their fans.”
Stanislav Cherchesov, Russia coach: “We already played them in the qualifiers. They’re a good team: ambitious, strong, with a great coach and good players. It’s no surprise they’ve been top of the FIFA rankings over the past few years. Our recent games with Belgium have been open affairs, spectacular football that delights the fans. We understand where we’re at. We are not among the tournament favourites, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
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