Saint Petersburg, Russia (AP) – Three consecutive victories, seven goals and their best players with minutes of play.
For Belgium, the European group stage could not have ended better.
Top FIFA rankings Belgium beat Finland 2-0 on Monday to top Group B and join Italy and the Netherlands as teams that qualified for the Round of 16 with a perfect move.
Finland finished third in their debut at the continental championship, surpassing Denmark, who beat Russia 4-1 in Copenhagen.
Belgium’s second goal, written by Romelu Lukaku in the 81st minute for the tournament’s third-highest scoreline, could be significant by leaving Finland third-worst among the three groups that completed the group stage. They have only little hope of ranking as one of the top four in third place.
That did not stop a section of the Finnish fans from staying in the stands long after the final whistle to give their team a standing ovation. The players finally came out of the dressing room to the applause of their fans.
“I feel a bit empty at the moment,” said Finland coach Marco Kanerva.
Finland were heading towards the equalizer that would have secured second place in the sector when, unfortunately, goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky scored an own goal in the 74th minute. A header from Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen bounced off the grass and hit the post towards Hradecky’s outstretched hand, which hit the ball across the goal line.
Belgium will face one of four third places in the next stage, on Sunday in Seville, and coach Roberto Martinez will have more options to see Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel, three key players who have seen each other injured. with injuries.
De Bruyne entered the second half and enabled Lukaku to score, a game in which he broke his defense in the area and took a low right past Hradecky.
The Manchester City midfielder, who made a comeback in the tournament after suffering a fracture to his face in the Champions League final, hit a corner kick that resulted in Belgium’s first goal.
Hazard and Witsel played the entire match, and Martinez had the opportunity to rest starting players such as midfielder Yuri Tillmans and defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
“Three wins, three professional performances, three different styles,” Martinez said, referring to his previous victories over Russia and Denmark.
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