Belgium will aim to end a seven-match winless run in their rivalry with Finland when the sides meet in Monday's Euro 2020 Group B clash at Saint Petersburg Stadium.

The Red Devils have defeated Russia 3-0 and Denmark 2-1 in their opening two games and are assured of a place in the knockout stages.

However, Roberto Martinez's side may require a point to secure top spot and a meeting with one of the best third-placed sides in the last 16.

Belgium do not have the best of records against Finland, drawing three and losing four of the last seven meetings since their last win in this fixture 53 years ago.

The world's top-ranked side head into this latest encounter as heavy favourites, though, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is targeting top spot.

"It's prestigious to win the group, so that is something we are definitely going for," Courtois said.

"Sure, the next phase might actually be easier if you're not the group winner, but in football there can always be surprises.

"At the World Cup we seemed to have a tougher time against Japan than against Brazil. You can't try to calculate these things, you just always have to play to win."

Finland beat Denmark 1-0 in their opener – a game overshadowed by the cardiac arrest suffered by Christian Eriksen – before falling to defeat by the same scoreline to Russia.

The Eagle Owls would advance with a win against Belgium, or a draw if Russia lose to Denmark, otherwise they are relying on being one of the best-ranked third-placed sides.

They have mustered just two shots on target across their first two matches, with no team previously managing fewer than four across their three group games in the competition since records began in 1980.

"We created more against Russia, but the final pass was still not ideal," head coach Markku Kanerva said. "We need to improve on that.

"The players are in good spirits and we will do everything to get something out of the game. We all know Belgium's quality and are aware that we are facing a really tough task."

 

 


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Finland – Joel Pohjanpalo

Bayer Leverkusen striker Pohjanpalo wrote his name in Finland folklore by scoring his country's first – and so far only – goal at a major tournament with his header against Denmark.

He had another goal cruelly ruled out for offside against Russia and is accountable for 42 per cent of his side's shots at Euro 2020 so far (5/12), with no other Finland player recording more than two attempts.

Kanerva could do with others helping out in attack, such as a not-fully-fit Teemu Pukki, but Finland's hopes of progression seemingly weigh largely on the shoulders of Pohjanpalo on the basis of the last two games.

Belgium – Eden Hazard

Martinez has confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne and Hazard, who both assisted from the bench against Denmark, will start this concluding group game as they continue to work their way back to full fitness.

Hazard has made five assists in seven appearances for Belgium at the European Championship at an average of one every 98 minutes, which is the best rate of any player to have made five appearances in the competition since 1980, the point from which such records are available.

The Real Madrid forward may have endured a frustrating time of things during his two seasons with Real Madrid, but he showed during his cameo appearance in Copenhagen that he still has plenty to offer in this talented Belgium side.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– None of the last five encounters between Finland and Belgium have produced more than two goals.

– Belgium have won their final group-stage game in each of their last four major tournament appearances (Euros and World Cup), since losing 2-0 against Turkey at Euro 2000.

– Each of Finland's two matches at Euro 2020 has ended 1-0. The only team to have three consecutive matches ending 1-0 in the same European Championship tournament were Greece at Euro 2004, who won the trophy that year.

– Belgium will be looking to win 100 per cent of their group games for the second consecutive major tournament (3/3 at the 2018 World Cup), while it would be the first time they have won all of their group-stage games in a single edition of the Euros.

– After winning four consecutive matches in October and November 2020, Finland have won just one of their last eight games in all competitions (D2 L5), failing to find the net in three of their last four games.

Finland marked their first appearance at a major tournament with a 1-0 win over Denmark but their opening Euro 2020 Group B match was overshadowed by the collapse of Christian Eriksen. 

The match at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen was suspended shortly before half-time after Inter midfielder Eriksen collapsed to the ground with no one around him.

Team-mates and referee Anthony Taylor called for immediate help from medical staff, with the players forming a protective barrier around Eriksen while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

The 29-year-old was carried from the pitch, but positive news followed with the Danish Football Union stating Eriksen was "awake" and set for "further examinations" after being taken to hospital. 

Both sets of players decided to resume the game after more than 100 minutes away from the pitch, with Joel Pohjanpalo sealing an historic triumph for Finland shortly before the hour mark against an understandably deflated Denmark side, who missed a late penalty through Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Denmark started on the front foot, with Jonas Wind, Hojbjerg and Eriksen forcing Lukas Hradecky into saves inside the opening 20 minutes. 

Thomas Delaney and Martin Braithwaite then fired off target as Denmark continued to push forward in search of an opener. 

The game was suspended for almost two hours following Eriksen's collapse, the players ultimately returning to finish the remaining few minutes of the first half before a short half-time interval. 

Despite Denmark's dominance, it was Finland who opened the scoring with their first attempt on goal, Pohjanpalo heading through the weak hands of Kasper Schmeichel in the 59th minute. 

Kasper Hjulmand's side had a golden opportunity to draw level 16 minutes from full-time when Paulus Arajuuri brought down Yussuf Poulsen in the penalty area, but Hojbjerg's tame spot-kick was kept out by Hradecky.

What does it mean? Finland's famous win will soon be forgotten 

Ordinarily, Finland beating a side 44 places above them in the world rankings in their first ever European Championship match would be a head-turning result. 

As it is, the win – achieved thanks to Finland's solitary effort on goal – will largely be forgotten following the distressing scenes involving Eriksen. 

The reports coming out of Denmark on Eriksen's condition while his team-mates played out the game were encouraging and their attention will now surely turn to his recovery rather than dwelling on an opening-day defeat. 

Hradecky thwarts dominant Denmark

Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Hradecky made six saves to deny Denmark, the most important of which was to keep out Hojbjerg's penalty. That save meant he became only the third goalkeeper to save a penalty on their debut appearance in the European Championship after Przemyslaw Tyton in 2012 (for Poland against Greece) and Trols Rasmussen in 1988 (for Denmark against Spain).

Hojbjerg's spot-kick woe

Hojbjerg made more successful passes (78) than any player on the pitch and his 11 possession gains was only bettered by Daniel Wass (12), but the Tottenham midfielder was unable to net from the spot and secure what would have been an emotional point for his side.

Key Opta Facts:

- Finland have only lost one of their last eight competitive matches, picking up five victories and four clean sheets in the process (D2).
- Denmark have missed three of their last four penalties in major competitions (World Cup + Euros), having scored the previous five between 1984 and 1998.
- They have also failed to win eight of their nine opening matches at the European Championships (D3 L5).
- Pohjanpalo scored Finland's first ever goal at the European Championships with what was their first shot in the competition.
- He scored his 10th goal for Finland in what was his 43rd cap for his country – becoming one of only two players in their Euro 2020 squad to have netted 10+ goals for the national side (also Teemu Pukki, 30).
- Hradecky is only the third keeper to save a penalty on their debut appearance in the European Championships after Przemyslaw Tyton in 2012 (Poland v Greece) and Trols Rasmussen in 1988 (Denmark v Spain).

What's next?

Denmark face Group B heavyweights Belgium in Copenhagen on Thursday, while Finland take on Russia in St. Petersburg a day earlier.

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