Belgium’s golden generation wants to win their first major title and is clearly a favorite in the group stage. What role do Denmark, Russia and Finland play? The four teams in the kicker check…
Playing in the second group: Romelu Lukaku, Christian Eriksen, Timo Pukki and Artyom Dziuba.
Belgium: Fillet at the front, a weak point in the back
In the past few years there has been talk of the golden generation over and over again. Realistically, this Belgian team still has two chances to win its first major title: the upcoming European Championship and the 2022 World Cup.
Belgium Fillet in the attack system 3-4-2-1 is the attack. With director Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku’s “One-Man Buffalo Herd”, the attack features two exceptional players who get along wonderfully as well. However, KDB missed at least the opening match against Russia after one operation. Often injured, he lost Eden Hazard, who so far has fallen far short of expectations at Real Madrid. With the risk of fit and in good condition, the attack will be stronger. His creativity and dribbling power have been sorely missed by the team lately.
Belgium’s weakness is defense. Vincent Kompany is already retired, Jan Vertonghen (34) and Toby Alderweireld (32) have long lost the pace of previous years, and are therefore often skipped. Belgium is particularly prone to physically strong opponents stifling team creativity in its bud, and quick counter-attacks.
Belgium match times: Russia (June 12, 9 p.m., Saint Petersburg), Denmark (June 17, 6 p.m., Copenhagen), Finland (June 21, 9 p.m., Saint Petersburg)
EM basis: Tubize / Belgium
Finals and achievements: Five finals, no title
The Belgian team at a glance
Denmark: It depends on Eriksen
Denmark’s confidence in their ability to play a strong role again in the European Championship finals has rarely been greater than it has been this year. Coach Kasper Hjulmand has a promising mix of clever old hands and up-and-coming talent. One of the main characters is goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (Lester). Former Wolfsburg Simon Kjaer (AC Milan) also shows his leadership qualities as head of defence.
In attack, Christian Eriksen (Inter Milan) is the backbone. But: the team depends on their genius blows, they have to reach the highest level, otherwise nothing will work in the attack. In any case, this attack suffers from the fact that it lacks a reliable scorer. For example, Joseph Poulsen from Leipzig often creates good opportunities, but misses them often.
Perhaps Denmark’s greatest asset is the sheer quality and breadth of the team. The goalkeeper is first-class, the defense is solid, the midfield is well packed. An important bonus should also be the house advantage: the team played all three group matches in Copenhagen in front of their own fans.
Denmark match times: Finland (June 12, 6 p.m., Copenhagen), Belgium (June 17, 6 p.m., Copenhagen), Russia (June 21, 9 p.m., Copenhagen)
EM basis: Helsingor / Denmark
Finals and achievements: Eight European Championship finals in 1992
The Danish team at a glance
Finland: the newcomer with the famous goalscorer
For the first time ever, Finnish men qualified for a major final (the women had already competed in the European Championships three times) – and that’s without real stars. Markku Kanerva’s team thrives on compactness, great team spirit, blind understanding between each other and the goals of Teemu Pukki, who once played for Schalke in the Bundesliga. The short and fast Norwich City striker has become a real goalscorer.
In addition to Pukki, captain Tim Sparv (formerly Greuther Fürth) as a captain on and off the field, Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and head defense Paulus Arajuuri (Pafos) are important pillars and form the backbone of the team.
However, the squad is not full of players who have to prove themselves at the highest level every week in the major leagues. The European Championship Finals that will take place in three matches against heavy-caliber opponents within a short period of time will be a very special challenge in terms of game speed, fast action, athleticism and intelligence.
Finland match schedule: Denmark (June 12, 6 p.m., Copenhagen), Russia (June 16, 3 p.m., Saint Petersburg), Belgium (June 21, 9 p.m., Saint Petersburg)
EM basis: Rebino, Saint Petersburg / Rosland
Finals and achievements: qualified for the first time
A glimpse of the Finnish team
Russia: There is a lack of new motives
The turmoil in Russia proved difficult, the next generation of professionals usually lacking outstanding coordination. Since the 2018 World Cup, coach Stanislav Cherchesov has experimented with 24 players who were not even in the expanded squad three years ago.
Sbornaja stands and falls with the form and physique of the few outstanding players. Among them is Alexander Golovin (Monaco), who missed all matches with Russia in 2020 due to various injuries, as well as Mario Fernandez (CSKA Moscow) and of course tank storm Artyom Dzyuba (Zenit St Petersburg).
The team’s biggest problem remains efficiency. Within the game, there are often powerful phases that alternate with minutes of inactivity, including a darkening of the defense, for example in opposing standard situations, which often significantly leads to the reception of goals. Russia’s strengths are aggressive and defensive early in midfield and long-range shooting.
Russia match dates: Belgium (June 12, 9 p.m., Saint Petersburg), Finland (June 16, 3 p.m., Saint Petersburg), Denmark (June 21, 9 p.m., Copenhagen)
EM basis: Novogorsk, Moscow / Russia
Finals and achievements: Eleven finalists, European champion 1960
The Russian team at a glance
With their attacking power, Belgium are the favorites in Group B – and they are also one of the favourites. For Russia, progress in this group is certainly possible, after all, the newcomer Finland is a clear outsider, from whom nothing more can be expected than respectable successes. The strong Danes can be trusted to reach the quarter-finals.
EM 2021 kicker special has arrived! In addition to the special EM Championship stories and backgrounds in 2021, there are of course the team posters and the big table poster in the magazine. Get it now in stores or order directly from here!