The third and final match of a busy first Saturday at Euro 2020 comes from St Petersburg as Belgium take on one of the host nations Russia in the late kick off in the second game of the competition in Group B.
Belgium are the highest ranked side in this group but Russia were quarter finalists at their own World Cup three years ago and will be looking to revel in home conditions once again. These two might be the best two teams in the group so hopefully we’ll get a good evening of football.
Where to watch
For those of us in the UK, this is the first match of the tournament which will be shown live in full of ITV1. The build-up to the match begins at 7pm with the kick off coming at 8pm.
As the number one ranked side in the world, all the expectation will be on Belgium to deliver the goods in this tournament. They made it to the semi-finals of the last World Cup so they have tournament results to call upon and really with the wealth of talent available to them in their squad, anything but a complete domination of this section has to be considered something of a failure. That means they are under pressure to get off to a good start.
Belgium will go into this match confident for a few reasons. The first one being they are clearly the best team of the two and the other will be because they met Russia as recently as the qualifying competition for this tournament and beat them twice, convincingly really on both occasions. They won 3-1 in the home game and then 4-1 in the reverse fixture in Russia, so they clearly match up very well against this opponent.
We saw back in 2018 how Russia can be inspired by home advantage and although this ground won’t be full for this one, playing in front of supporters will surely provide the same inspiration once again. It was important for Russia to prove that their run to the quarter final of the World Cup wasn’t purely down to the fact they enjoyed home advantage. They have done that with a fair run in their Nations League group this year and a positive beginning to World Cup qualifying.
It will be interesting to see if Russia can land a blow on this Belgian side. There is a fragility to the Belgians defensively but it takes a brave approach to go after a side who are as dangerous as the Red Devils are on the counter. We are slowly seeing that you have to play with the ball in this tournament so Russia can’t really afford to sit back and soak up pressure, as in these energy zapping conditions it will be so hard to contain a powerhouse like this.
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It has been confirmed that Belgium are going to be without their star midfielder Kevin de Bruyne in this match. They are hoping he will be fit later in the group phase. Axel Witsel was a surprise selection for some but he has an Achilles problem which will see him miss this match. Eden Hazard is expected to feature throughout.
Russia’s plans ahead of this match were not helped when they lost midfielder Andrei Mostovoy on the eve of the competition after he tested positive for Covid-19. He has been replaced by Roman Yevgenyev but he isn’t likely to start.
I like the idea of goals in this match. I get the viewpoint that opening matches in group stages in tournaments tend to be tighter than some of the other games but I’m not sure that is going to be the case here. There were three goals or more in each of the three Russia group games at the World Cup while the two Belgium games they played a full strength side in also had three goals or more in them. I suspect the style of these two will blend for another relatively high scoring match.
The other thing we can look back on with comfort and as support for backing over 2.5 goals in this match is those two qualifying matches these two played. They contained four goals and five goals so there is plenty to suggest that there will be goals in this one. Both teams have goalscorers in form leading their line in Romelu Lukaku and Artem Dzyuba and attacking talent in behind them. The 11/10 on over 2.5 goals looks a little too big here.
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