SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (AP) – Belgium has already qualified for the knockout stage of the European Championship, so the FIFA-leading team can relax in its latest group stage appearance against Finland.
emphasis? not much.
Finland’s hopes of a less complex match seeking an unlikely ticket to the Round of 16 have taken a heavy blow from the news from the Belgian camp in recent days.
You just have to imagine the reaction of Finnish coach Marco Kanerva and his players when they learned that Belgium was planning a duel on Monday in Saint Petersburg with three of its key players: Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel.
In addition, Romelu Lukaku could remain in the squad, so he can continue his bid to be the tournament’s top scorer.
As if that wasn’t enough, the veteran trio of Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld will form a solid central background.
In short, Belgium is not slowing down.
“We are here to be the best we can be,” said Red Devils coach Roberto Martinez. This means that we have to strive for victory in every game.”
The decision on Lukaku will not be made until the last minute. Much will depend on how he recovers after playing Thursday’s full game, with a 2-1 win over Denmark.
However, Martinez made it clear that the match against Finland will be important to gauge the physical condition of De Bruyne, Hazard and Witsel, after the recent problems they suffered.
The three entered as substitutes in the second half against the Danes. De Bruyne does not seem particularly upset by the minor surgery he underwent to correct the fractures to the face he sustained during last month’s Champions League final.
The goal and assist of the Manchester City midfielder implied the victory which put Belgium into the next stage.
“The coach told me before the match against Denmark that he wanted me as a substitute so that he could later increase his pace against Finland,” De Bruyne said on Saturday. “For now, this is the ideal choice for me.”
Although it is not good for Finland.