Belgium and the Netherlands joined Italy in booking their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020 with victories over Denmark and Austria respectively.

The world's top-ranked side Belgium had to bounce back from a goal down to beat an inspired Denmark, with both teams paying tribute to Christian Eriksen after 10 minutes as the midfielder continues his recovery from a cardiac arrest.

Roberto Martinez's side need a point in their final Group B match to make certain of top spot, but the Netherlands are already through as Group C winners after seeing off Austria.

Ukraine also picked up all three points against North Macedonia in Thursday's action – just their second-ever victory at the European Championships.

Using Opta data, we take a look at some of the best facts from across the day's action.

Ukraine 2-1 North Macedonia: Shevchenko's men end losing Euros streak

Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk were on target for the second match running to end Ukraine's six-game losing streak at the European Championships.

With Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk's first-half goals, Ukraine became the first nation to have the same two players score in their first two games at a single Euros.

Ezgjan Alioski pulled one back at the second attempt after his penalty was saved, making it two goals in three games – as many as in his previous 17 for North Macedonia.

His penalty was given after a foul on Goran Pandev, who – at at 37 years and 325 days – is the oldest player to win a spot-kick in the Euros since data was first recorded in 1980.

Ruslan Malinovskyi failed to convert from 12 yards late on in a game which saw both sides win a penalty in the competition for the first time since England v France in 2004.

It means four of the six penalties taken at Euro 2020 have not been converted. The last tournament with more was Euro 2000 (five).

Denmark 1-2 Belgium: Red Devils bounce back from early setback

Belgium showed why they are ranked number one in the world as they recovered from an early setback to make it 11 wins from their last 12 group games at major competitions.

However, they had to do things the hard way after Yussuf Poulsen struck early on in Copenhagen.

Poulsen opened the scoring after 99 seconds – the second-earliest goal ever in the tournament, behind only Dmitry Kirichenko for Russia against Greece in 2004 (65 seconds).

The one shot on target Belgium managed in the first half came via Dries Mertens, who was earning his 100th cap for his country – the fifth Belgian to reach that landmark.

But the half-time introduction of Kevin De Bruyne for Mertens transformed the Red Devils, the playmaker setting up Thorgan Hazard's leveller and then drilling in the winner.

De Bruyne's fantastic strike was teed up by Eden Hazard, who joins the Manchester City star as the two European players to assist a goal at each of the last four major tournaments.

Belgium survived a nervy finish as they won their first two European Championship matches for the first time, while Denmark have lost their first two for the first time since 2000.

Netherlands 2-0 Austria: Faultless Oranje ease through

The Netherlands followed up their opening-game win against Ukraine with a routine victory against Austria in Amsterdam.

It is the third time the Oranje have won their opening two Euros matches, having previously done so in 2000 and 2008, when they exited the competition at the semi-final and quarter-final stage respectively.

Frank de Boer's men are now unbeaten in their last nine matches at major tournaments, which is the longest run by a European nation since Portugal went 12 without defeat between 2014 and 2018.

Memphis Depay opened the scoring for the Netherlands from the penalty spot, the Lyon forward's eighth goal for his country since De Boer took charge last September, with only Belgium's Romelu Lukaku scoring more (10) across all competitions for a European side over that period.

Denzel Dumfries added the second goal and is just the second Netherlands player to net in his first two appearances at the Euros after Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004, this after the right-back failed to score in his first 19 senior caps.

One of the unsung stars for the hosts was Dumfries' fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt, who completed 100 per cent of his 40 passes – a record for a Netherlands player in a European Championship match since records began in 1980.

Belgium planned to kick the ball out of play after 10 minutes against Denmark to pay their own mark of respect to Christian Eriksen. The world's top-ranked football nation were perhaps not anticipating, however, that they would be chasing the game – and indeed Danish shadows – at that early stage in the match.

In the end the referee, Bjorn Kuipers, seemingly had to remind the Belgium players to bring the contest to a temporary halt, sparking emotional scenes as supporters and players - Eriksen's current and former club-mates Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld among them – applauded in unison.

It was that type of occasion and that type of start for Denmark as they produced a fitting tribute to stricken team-mate Eriksen, who was likely to have been watching on from his hospital bed barely 400 yards away, where he continues to recover from a cardiac arrest.

Football was put into perspective the moment Eriksen went to ground in the Danes' opening Group B defeat to Finland – he was "gone", in the words of team doctor Morten Boesen – but thankfully updates in the five days since the incident have been largely positive.

Whether we will see the Inter playmaker on a field again remains to be seen; that he is able to smile and laugh once more with his colleagues is a huge victory in its own right. A bigger victory, indeed, than Denmark were on course for against Belgium until the Kevin De Bruyne show ensued.

 

Long before the Manchester City playmaker's half-time arrival, just 99 seconds into the game at a raucous Parken Stadium, Yussuf Poulsen finished expertly into the bottom-left corner for the second-quickest goal in European Championship history.

Poulsen profited from a Jason Denayer error, the Lyon defender looking rusty in the early stages after returning to the side in place of Dedryck Boyata at the back following a rare day off in the 3-0 win over Russia.

Roberto Martinez's Belgian charges lived up to their tag as the world's number one side in their previous match against Russia, and the professionalism of this performance – as bad as they were in the first half – will arguably heighten expectations that they can go all the way when at full strength.

Belgium mustered just one attempt in the first half – a flicked effort from Dries Mertens on his 100th cap.

The last time they managed only one effort in the opening 45 minutes was in a 2-0 loss to Spain in September 2016, Martinez's first at the helm, which preceded a run of just three defeats in their next 56 matches.

Denmark could not quite add their name to that rare list of nations to have conquered the Red Devils over the last five years, with the visitors' quality eventually shining through. Make that De Bruyne's quality.

Still recovering from a facial injury sustained in Manchester City's Champions League loss to Chelsea last month, the playmaker was introduced for the start of the second half and made an instant impact.

Against the run of play, Lukaku turned his marker and pulled the ball back for De Bruyne to tee up the unmarked Thorgan Hazard. The finish from six yards was simple, the build-up to it anything but.

That assist made De Bruyne the only European player to set up a goal in each of the last four major international tournaments and he added his own name to the scoresheet 16 minutes later.

Another flowing team move culminated in De Bruyne driving a low shot past Kasper Schmeichel. A broken nose and a broken eye socket for De Bruyne; broken dreams for Denmark as their tournament hopes are now perhaps as good as over.

This game was never solely about the result, though – one that ensures safe passage through to the knockout stages for Belgium with a game, against Finland, to spare.

The defining moment was not Denayer's error, De Bruyne's match-changing introduction or Martin Braithwaite skimming the crossbar at the end, but rather the moment when all within the stadium united to pay respect to the popular Eriksen.

"All of Denmark is with you, Christian," a banner in one of the stands read. And boy did Denmark's players show that as they gave Belgium's hugely talented squad a run for their money.

Kevin De Bruyne inspired Belgium to a 2-1 comeback win over Denmark that secured their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020.

With Roberto Martinez's side trailing to an early Yussuf Poulsen goal, De Bruyne came off the bench for the second half, his first outing since injury forced him off during Manchester City's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

And the 29-year-old quickly provided a brilliant assist for Thorgan Hazard before turning the game completely on its head with an equally superb finish that secured the points.

Just five days on from those traumatic scenes involving Christian Eriksen in Copenhagen, the home fans welcomed their heroes back to Parken by creating an electric atmosphere.

The consequences of that were apparent just two minutes in as Jason Denayer played a panicky pass out from the back that was easily intercepted by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

The Tottenham midfielder did well to shrug off his man in charging toward goal and poke the ball to Poulsen, who produced a powerful low finish into the bottom corner from just inside the box.

That early strike served to further stir the Danes, who twice went close moments later as Joakim Maehle saw a shot smothered and Martin Braithwaite flicked goalward from a low cross.

Proceedings were paused after 10 minutes for a short period of applause in support of the absent Eriksen, a tribute that served to somewhat dull the hosts' momentum.

But Belgium were relieved to see a Mikkel Damsgaard effort dribble wide of the post after great footwork in the box, once Denmark got going again after the half-hour mark.

The visitors' poor performance prompted a half-time change, the ineffective Dries Mertens making way for De Bruyne.

And the substitute made an almost immediate impact, building on a trademark burst forward from Romelu Lukaku by sitting down two opponents before teeing up Thorgan Hazard to level up from close range.

De Bruyne then went one better, getting on the end of a slick team move to smash a low, left-footed drive home from the edge of the penalty area, in front of the delighted Belgian supporters.

Denmark made a late push to get back on terms, going closest when Braithwaite brushed the bar with a header at the death, but they were ultimately held at arm's length by a team who strengthened their credentials as potential tournament winners.

What does it mean? Belgian looking strong

With six points under their belts, Belgium know that their place in the knockout stage is assured.

Denmark, meanwhile, know that only a win in their final group game could earn them a place in the latter stages of the tournament.

De Bruyne crucial to Belgium hopes

As if a goal and assist weren't proof enough of his importance, De Bruyne also won five of his six duels and made 19 passes in the opposition half during an inspirational second-half cameo.

The Manchester City's man's fitness didn't look in doubt, either, which means he is now surely guaranteed a starting berth in each of Belgium's remaining games in this tournament.

Mertens under pressure

Conversely, it is not a good look for Mertens to be the player who left the field for the matchwinner.

The 34-year-old managed just 18 touches, lost all four of his duels, and had six passes in the opposition half during a forgettable first half - he now faces a battle to get his place back.

What's next?

Belgium head back to St Petersburg to complete their group-stage campaign against Finland on Monday, while Denmark remain in Copenhagen to take on Russia on the same day.

Denmark and Belgium paused play after 10 minutes of their Euro 2020 clash to applaud stricken Christian Eriksen.

The Inter midfielder was given CPR on the pitch during the first half of Denmark's Group B opener with Finland last Saturday after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Eriksen remains in hospital in Copenhagen and assured fans on Tuesday that he is "fine – under the circumstances" as he continues to be monitored.

Denmark were in action on Thursday for the first time since that shocking incident and opponents Belgium wanted to celebrate Eriksen's survival and improved health.

Romelu Lukaku revealed ahead of the match at Parken Stadium that the Red Devils intended to bring the game to a halt after 10 minutes – 10 being Eriksen's shirt number.

Lukaku plays at Inter alongside Eriksen and appeared emotional as the players turned their thoughts towards Eriksen.

 

Both sets of players stopped the game for a minute as they and supporters inside the ground clapped in unison in an emotional tribute.

Denmark held a 1-0 lead at that point in the match thanks to Yussuf Poulsen's goal after just 99 seconds – the second-quickest in European Championship history.

The Danish Football Union announced earlier on Thursday that Eriksen will be fitted with an implant to help regulate his heart rhythm in future.

Specialists recommended he be fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a device that uses electrical pulses to regulate potentially dangerous heart rhythms.

Denmark will use some tips from their stricken team-mate Christian Eriksen as they look to thwart Romelu Lukaku in Thursday's Euro 2020 Group B match against Belgium.

Kasper Hjulmand's side are back in action for the first time since the ordeal of witnessing Eriksen's sickening cardiac arrest on the turf at Parken Stadium just before half-time in last Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Finland.

The Inter playmaker thankfully pulled through and is feeling "fine, under the circumstances" as he continues to recuperate in hospital.

But Hjulmand told reporters that Eriksen's insight into his San Siro team-mate Lukaku could prove invaluable.

Lukaku scored twice in Belgium's 3-0 win over Russia, dedicating his opening goal to his close friend Eriksen.

That made him the second Belgium player to score in at least two European Championships after Jan Ceulemans in 1980 and 1984.

"Due to Eriksen's absence, we will have to do things differently, but Belgium will have to be top to beat us." Hjulmand said. "We have to make sure that Lukaku is as uninvolved as possible. 

"Once he's on the ball, he can't be stopped. Eriksen – his team-mate at Inter – also pointed out that danger to us." 

Belgium will be without Timothy Castagne after the wing-back suffered a fractured eye socket against Russia, although Kevin De Bruyne is back in training after a similar injury and Axel Witsel (Achilles) is expected to take a place on the bench.

Aside from Eriksen, all members of Hjulmand's squad trained on Wednesday, although the coach conceded he would check on whether each felt available to play.

"It will undoubtedly be an emotional evening for us, but also for Christian," he added. 

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Denmark – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Hojbjerg's tame second-half penalty against Finland was a moment to forget but the Tottenham midfielder will have to be on his game to shut down Belgium's lavishly gifted creative department. He won possession more times than any other Premier League player in 2020-21 (296), while he was second only to Manchester City's Rodri in terms of passes made (2,785).

Belgium – Kevin De Bruyne

If De Bruyne can instantly relocate the form that won him a second consecutive PFA Footballers' Footballer of the Year award then it could spell trouble for Denmark and joy for the prolific Lukaku. In 25 Premier League games this season, De Bruyne delivered 12 assists – an average of one every 167 minutes.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Denmark and Belgium's only previous meeting at a major tournament was in the group stages of Euro 1984. Denmark won 3-2, having been 2-0 down.
- Indeed, it is best to expect goals when these two come together. The only 0-0 draw between the countries came in their first meeting, back in 1922. They have averaged 3.7 goals per game since.
- Belgium have won four of their past five matches at the European Championship, as many as they had won across their first 13 games in the competition.
- The Red Devils have lost just one of their past 24 matches in all competitions, winning 20.
- Dries Mertens could make his 100th appearance for Belgium. He would join team-mates Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Eden Hazard and Witsel on the century mark.

Belgium and Leicester City star Youri Tielemans dismissed speculation linking him with a move to Premier League giants Liverpool.

Tielemans, who scored the winner for Leicester City in last month's FA Cup final, has been continually linked with Liverpool following the departure of Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris Saint-Germain.

The 24-year-old Tielemans has two years remaining on his current Leicester contract and would not be drawn on the speculation when speaking to the media ahead of Belgium's Euro 2020 clash with Denmark on Friday.   

"I don't look at that, I just focus on this tournament," Tielemans, who joined Leicester in 2019, told reporters. "I've said that several times.

"Whatever happens after, we'll see. I just want to focus on the tournament, that's it."

It has been reported Tielemans is valued at £ 68million, which the former Monaco and Anderlecht midfielder brushed off.

"That does nothing [for me]. It's nice for journalists and for the internet," said Tielemans, who has been linked with Manchester United previously.

"I'm just focused on the Euros and making the most of it. That is all."

 

Roberto Martinez says he has never seen "carefree" Eden Hazard work so hard and is also hopeful of having Kevin De Bruyne back to fitness for Belgium's clash with Denmark.

Hazard has been blighted by injuries during his two seasons at Real Madrid and was not deemed ready to start Belgium's 3-0 win over Russia in Saturday's Group B opener.

The 30-year-old played the final 18 minutes in Saint Petersburg – only his second international outing in 19 months, six days after coming on as a substitute against Croatia.

He managed only 18 touches of the ball during his time on the field, but Martinez is pleased with the progress being made by the Madrid forward to get back to his best.

"I've never seen him work so hard off the field," Martinez said at a news conference on Sunday. "As a captain, he feels the responsibility. From the first day he was with us, he works hard.

"Against Russia, that's the first time I've seen a carefree Hazard. Before that I always saw him thinking on the pitch.

"Now he is playing more intuitively, making moves and getting away from defenders. The challenge now is to last for 90 minutes.

"He worked individually again today, but he will get more minutes against Denmark and even more against Finland, when he should be able to play the full 90."

De Bruyne played no part in Belgium's comfortable win against Russia, secured thanks to a couple of Romelu Lukaku goals and one for Thomas Meunier.

The Manchester City man is recovering from the fractured nose and left orbital he sustained in his club side's loss to Chelsea in the Champions League final two weeks ago.

However, De Bruyne has a chance of being ready in time to feature against Denmark in Copenhagen on Thursday.

"He will resume training tomorrow," Martinez said. "After that we'll evaluate whether he can come to Copenhagen with us to play against Denmark."

Martinez also revealed that Axel Witsel will make a surprise return to action next week, just five months after tearing his Achilles tendon while playing for Borussia Dortmund.

"My idea was to have him start against Finland for the first time," he said. "That's why I named him in the 26-man group.

"But since he is ahead of schedule, he will be given some minutes against Denmark."

Belgium will be looking to build on a run of just one defeat in their last 24 matches in all competitions when they travel to Denmark.

The Danes lost 1-0 to Finland in their Group B opener, a game that was overshadowed by Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest during the first half.

Eriksen was given CPR on the pitch by medics and is now "awake" and recovering in hospital.

Denmark's players returned to the field less than two hours later and were beaten by a Joel Pohjanpalo goal, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg missing from the penalty spot.

"They were not themselves against Finland," Martinez said. "The circumstances with Eriksen weighed on the group. 

"We can expect a different Denmark and a very tough game on Thursday. You cannot compare the circumstances

"That will be a very emotional game, especially before kick-off. They have a very strong team, as we know from the Nations League. 

"The Danes will also have the support of the fans. But we need those kinds of matches. The match should be a celebration in honour of Eriksen, as it were."

Denmark and Belgium's only previous meeting at a major tournament was in the group stages of Euro 1984, the Danes winning that one 3-2 after recovering from two goals down.

Belgium full-back Timothy Castagne has been ruled out for the remainder of Euro 2020 after sustaining a double fracture of his right eye socket.

Roberto Martinez's Belgium opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Russia on Saturday but it came at a cost.

Castagne and Russia's Daler Kuzyaev collided in mid-air after 25 minutes and both went down holding their heads.

Belgium's Castagne was substituted immediately and Kuzyaev two minutes later in the Group B clash in St Petersburg.

"Really bad news, really sad news to see Timothy Castagne is going to be out of the tournament," Belgium head coach Martinez said. 

"He's had images taken, he's got a double fracture and now we'll take the necessary treatment."

While Leicester City's Castagne will sit out the rest of the European Championship, the news was better for Jan Vertonghen. 

Veteran defender Vertonghen was withdrawn in the 77th minute due to ankle injury, but Martinez said there were no major concerns regarding his fitness going forward. 

"Vertonghen has got just a typical football injury, an ankle knock that we're probably going to wait 48 hours to see the real extent, but I don't expect it to be too serious," Martinez said. 

Overall, Martinez was satisfied to see his side play the way they did in the opener. 

"The performance is very pleasing," he said. "It's never easy to start a tournament of this magnitude and I think it looked a team very concentrated for 90 minutes, kept a clean sheet in a very good way, and then obviously the win will allow us to grow and to get into the tournament."

Belgium are unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions (W8 D2) and have suffered just one defeat in their last 24 internationals (W20 D3), via a 2-1 loss to England in the Nations League in October 2020.

Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov will have far more to worry about after an uninspiring performance but expressed optimism his side will bounce back against Finland on Wednesday.

Cherchesov's Russia have lost four of their last six competitive games (W2) after losing just one of their 13 before that (W10 D2).

"We are still in the tournament," Cherchesov told a news conference. "We chose our system, which worked partially but then started to break down. The Belgians scored and then it was difficult to get the ball off them."

"We will get out of the situation. We put ourselves there, so now we must find a way out."

Romelu Lukaku dedicated his inspirational performance in Belgium's win over Russia to Christian Eriksen after his Inter team-mate collapsed during Denmark's Euro 2020 game against Finland.

Denmark captain Eriksen required emergency treatment on the field after he fell to the turf late in the first half of the Group B match at Parken Stadium on Saturday.

The midfielder was awake in hospital and undergoing tests following such traumatic scenes in Copenhagen, with his team-mates having formed a protective barrier around him while efforts were made to resuscitate him.

Lukaku shed tears for Eriksen as he watched the game before scoring twice in Belgium's 3-0 win over Russia later in the day.

The striker shouted "I love you Chris" into a television camera after putting the Red Devils in front.

He told beIN SPORTS: "I'm really happy with the win but for me it was difficult to play today because my mind was with my team-mate, Christian.

"I hope that he's healthy and I dedicate this performance to him.

"I cried a lot because I was scared. We lived strong moments together for a year and a half, I spent more time with him than with my family. My thoughts are with him, his girlfriend, his two kids and his family."

Toby Alderweireld had similar thoughts after the match, writing on Twitter about his former Tottenham team-mate to say: "First win of the tournament but tonight was about more than football." 

Tagging Eriksen, he added: "My friend, my thoughts are with you and your family."

Finland beat Denmark 1-0 after the first Group B game resumed with the five remaining minutes of the first half played before a shortened half-time interval.

UEFA said the match was completed "following the request made by players of both teams".

Widespread concern met the decision for Denmark and Finland to return to the pitch less than two hours after Christian Eriksen had first collapsed in Copenhagen on Saturday.

An alarming incident prompted serious fears for Eriksen's life, fears that were eased but not eradicated by positive updates on the midfielder's condition.

For those watching from afar, the swift restart could not have been anticipated. There was wonder instead for how Belgium and Russia could possibly play later.

The Belgium squad features Eriksen's Inter team-mate Romelu Lukaku and long-term Ajax and Tottenham colleagues Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

But, sure enough, confirmation was forthcoming of the resumption in Group B's first fixture, set for 20:30 CET, with Belgium's kick-off to follow as scheduled half an hour later.

Understandably, Denmark turned in a distracted display. Lacking the same enthusiasm as earlier, they fell to a 1-0 defeat that would usually have been considered a major upset. Few were thinking about Finland's historic result, minds focused instead on Eriksen.

Indeed, it was a similar story in Saint Petersburg, even if Russia made for accommodating hosts.

Lukaku profited from hapless Andrey Semenov defending and finished ruthlessly after 10 minutes. Rather than revel in his eighth tournament goal – the most of any Belgium player – the forward made for a nearby television camera.

"Chris," he bellowed, reaching the lens. "Chris, stay strong. I love you."

Eriksen occupied Lukaku's thoughts even at a moment of apparent elation, an action that backed up the words of UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

"At these times, the unity of the football family is so strong and [Eriksen] and his family carry with them the good wishes and prayers of everyone," Ceferin said.

Further tributes will follow and it is difficult to imagine how that agonising Parken Stadium wait for family, friends, team-mates, opponents and fans, eager for any news at all as medical staff worked at length, does not overshadow the entire tournament.

Lukaku will hope there is at least time for some Belgian cheer before the Euros concludes at Wembley next month.

If Eriksen continues to recover, the Red Devils striker can allow his attention to return to the professional task at hand: finally delivering finals glory for his country.

Now or never is the popular verdict. Belgium entered this competition with a squad that boasts the most caps and ranks second oldest, behind only Sweden.

Lukaku is 28 and should play at Qatar 2022 and beyond, but some of his team-mates may not.

While the defence is undoubtedly ageing, the injury issues that are dogging other star names have become increasingly, frustratingly regular.

As Belgium reached the latter stages of Brazil 2014, Euro 2016 and Russia 2018 – only France also figured in the quarter-finals of all three tournaments – no outfield players started more matches than Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel (all 15 – tied with Alderweireld).

In 2020-2021, the trio were restricted to 11, 36 and 18 club starts respectively.

Hazard, having dealt with a series of muscle problems, started from the bench on Saturday. De Bruyne (orbital fracture) and Witsel (torn Achilles tendon) are both still recovering.

"Those are players who have something extra," said Dries Mertens, who took up one of the vacant attacking roles. "To not have three players like that, we're going to feel that, but we have to step up and be ready."

Leander Dendoncker stepped in for Witsel and said: "Axel has such a massive role in the squad, so it's logical we're talking about him. Kevin and Eden aren't here now either, and we're all talking about their absence. It's normal; they've earned it."

But it was Lukaku who ensured that absence was not felt. His clinical opener wrecked Russian dreams and might have been quickly followed by a second had Georgi Dzhikiya not expertly intervened. There were two minutes remaining when he belatedly hit the net again for Belgium's third, celebrated in more traditional fashion.

The Nerazzurri superstar has now been involved in 26 goals (22 goals, four assists) in his 19 games for Belgium since the World Cup.

Of Lukaku's nine finals goals, only one has arrived in the knockout stages, but this early effort was crucial in seizing control of the group. On this form, he will surely also add to that tally.

For all that this was an impressive win as Hazard featured sparingly and two key midfielders not at all, there is an argument – at least from those studying their wallcharts – Belgium might actually be better served finishing second in their pool. That could potentially mean no repeat of 2018, when they landed in the trickier half of the draw and met France in the last four. The same scenario is very possible again from first place.

That was not something for Lukaku to worry about on this occasion, though.

His friend's welfare was of primary concern, and then a talismanic outing to lift spirits just a little at the end of a tough day for football.

Romelu Lukaku sent his support to Christian Eriksen after setting Belgium on their way to a 3-0 victory Russia in their Euro 2020 opener on Saturday.

Lukaku's Inter team-mate Eriksen is awake in hospital and undergoing tests after collapsing during Denmark's encounter with Finland in Copenhagen earlier in a traumatic second day of the tournament.

Red Devils record goalscorer Lukaku said "Chris, I love you" into a television camera following his opening goal in the Group B match at Saint Petersburg Stadium.

Thomas Meunier scored Belgium's second in the first half and the impressive Lukaku added a late third as the top-ranked side in the world moved level on points with Finland, 1-0 winners over Denmark in a game that resumed following encouraging news on Eriksen.

 

Kevin De Bruyne is progressing well in his injury recovery despite being ruled out of Belgium's Euro 2020 opener against Russia in St Petersburg.

Manchester City playmaker De Bruyne suffered fractures to his nose and orbital bone during last month's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

The sight of the 29-year-old being groggily helped from the field in Porto initially placed doubts over his participation at Euro 2020, but he has joined up with Roberto Martinez's squad.

Although Saturday's Group B opener comes too soon for De Bruyne, Martinez suggested he could feature before the end of the round robin stage, with the recently crowned PFA Footballer of the Year set to resume training alongside his team-mates when they return from their assignment at Krestovsky Stadium.

"It was always a medical direction. Kevin had to go through a few stages and he has been through those," the Belgium head coach explained at a pre-match news conference on Friday.

"Yesterday he had a very positive day on the grass but it wasn't with the group.

"The next two days will be really important to get him back into moving freely and starting to get the exercise that is needed before he can come to the group."

Another experienced member of Martinez's squad, Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, is closing in on a return to action.

Witsel has not played competitive football since suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in January but was still handed a place in the Red Devils' 26-man squad.

Like De Bruyne, he has not travelled to St Petersburg.

"The situation with Axel is very clear. He is part of the 26. His work in the past few days has been totally with the group and has been really satisfactory," Martinez said.

"Then we're going to take every day to try to add to that normality of Axel with the group. The decision not to travel to St Petersburg was to get another two days of work and then he will join the group again when we come back.

"From that point I don't expect Axel to miss a lot more."

He added: "Both players are following an individual programme. We're very happy with the progress in the last two days.

"Neither could join for tomorrow's game but both players are progressing really well and they're going to be with the group as soon as we come back."

Belgium will be keen to call upon De Bruyne's creative expertise as soon as possible.

Across 25 Premier League games in 2020-21, he delivered 12 assists at a rate of one every 167 – the most prolific return of any players to record three assists or more in England's top flight.

Roberto Martinez believes Belgium's players can handle the expectations of a potentially legacy-defining tournament as they prepare to open their Euro 2020 campaign against Russia in St Petersburg.

The Red Devils sit atop FIFA's world rankings, a position to which a lavishly gifted squad have become accustomed over the recent past.

However, an improvement upon their third-placed finish at the 2018 World Cup will be required to make good on their incredible promise.

Until that run under Martinez, quarter-final exits at Brazil 2014 and Euro 2016 went down as disappointments for the generation of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, the latter of whom will sit out the Group A opener alongside Axel Witsel.

"I'm sure that the last three years, when the team reaches the level of continuity and consistency that it's showed in the world rankings there is more expectation," Martinez told a pre-match news conference. "There are more neutral fans who follow the team.

"But that doesn't change anything for us. You grow from expectation within the team. The difficulty is the team we have in front of us. I don't think this team will suffer because of expectation."

Krestovsky Stadium was the scene of Belgium's narrow World Cup semi-final loss to France and their win over England in the third-place match three years ago.

A partisan crowd means Martinez expects a different feel this time around.

"There are no secrets between the two teams. We know Russia really well, as they know us really well," he added.

"We are in a magnificent stadium where there will be over 30,000 Russia fans. That's an element we have to overcome in this game."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Belgium – Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku re-established his reputation as one of the premier strikers in world football by firing Inter to Serie A glory this season. His 35 goal involvements (24 goals, 11 assists) were more than any other player managed in Italy's top-flight and he is very much in the Golden Boot conversation. Lukaku's capacity to create as well as score also bodes well in the absence of De Bruyne, as the Manchester City playmaker continues his recovery from facial injuries sustained during the Champions League final.

 

Russia – Artem Dzyuba

Russia have a powerhouse striker of their own in cult hero Dzyuba. An outspoken character, he was banished from international duty for a year before returning with three goals in a run to the World Cup quarter-finals on home soil in 2018.

The surfacing of an explicit video featuring Dzyuba threatened to derail him once again earlier this season, but he heads into Euro 2020 as captain of his country and their main threat after 20 league goals for Zenit – the second successive campaign he has finished as top scorer in the Russian Premier League. Only England's Harry Kane (17) was directly involved in more goals during qualification than Dzyuba (14 – nine goals, five assists).

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Belgium were one of only two teams – alongside Italy – to win all of their games in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign (10/10). They also scored more goals than any other team (40) while setting the joint-best defensive record of three goals conceded.

- No player delivered more assists than Eden Hazard in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, with all seven of those coming from open play. He was also the joint-top assist provider at Euro 2016 (4, level with Aaron Ramsey).

- Russia are winless in their last five matches at the European Championship (D2 L3), since a 4-1 win against Czech Republic in June 2012.

- Thibaut Courtois conceded an average of 0.74 goals per game in LaLiga in 2020-21 (28 in 38 appearances), the lowest ratio for a Real Madrid goalkeeper playing every match of the same top-flight season since Opta began collecting this data in 2005-06.

- Aleksandr Golovin was directly involved in 14 goals in 21 games in Ligue 1 in 2020-21 (five goals, nine assists). Only Andrey Arshavin (six goals, 11 assists with Arsenal in 2010-11) has had more goal involvements among Russian players in the top-five European leagues over the past 15 seasons. Monaco won 41 per cent of their league games without Golovin on the pitch this season, winning 81 per cent when he was involved.

Predicting the winner of a major international tournament is a natural part of being a football fan, even if it can sometimes be something of a fool's errand – as proven by Greece and Denmark.

But considering how integral statistics are to football these days, using data could potentially give you the edge, and that's where Stats Perform comes in.

Our Artificial Intelligence team have used Opta's extensive data reserves to quantify each team's chances of winning the entire tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Euros Prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

It takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

Then, the rest of the tournament is simulated 40,000 times and analysed, providing the AI team with a percentage for each nation, showing the probability of them ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11.

Without any further ado, let's check out the results, some of which may come as something of a surprise…

MOST-LIKELY WINNERS: France (20.5 per cent)

Well, this one probably isn't much of a shock. Anyone who has looked through the squad at Didier Deschamps' disposal has likely come to the conclusion that Les Bleus will have to implode a la the 2010 World Cup if they're to be beaten.

Most of the key players from their 2018 World Cup-winning squad are present, and now they can call upon the services of Karim Benzema again, which is no small thing.

 

Our model also gives France a 46.8 per cent chance of finish top of the so-called 'Group of Death', which also includes defending champions Portugal and a Germany side desperate for redemption after World Cup humiliation in Russia.

If France are successful, Deschamps will become the first man in history to win the World Cup and Euros as both a player and manager.

2. Belgium (15.7 per cent)

Could this be the last-chance saloon for Belgium's 'Golden Generation'? Our predictor model certainly suggests they're still in with a great chance of winning the title, with their 15.7 per cent the second highest.

They have the joint-oldest squad at the tournament (29.2 years) along with Sweden, so while they're certainly not a young team, several of their best players are right at the peak of their powers, with Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku coming into the tournament arguably in the form of their lives.

 

They looked sharp in qualifying – for what it's worth – with a 100 per cent win record and a 40-goal haul that wasn't matched by any other team, while they will be strong favourites to win their group ahead of Russia, Denmark and Finland.

3. Spain (11.3 per cent)

Now, one thing our model cannot take into consideration is a coronavirus outbreak. La Roja had to field their Under-21s for the senior side's final pre-Euros warm-up game against Lithuania – while it means nothing for their chances at the tournament, they did ease to a 4-0 win.

It remains to be seen if there are any further consequences of Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente testing positive for COVID-19, but if we assume Luis Enrique is able to rely on a squad that's more or less the selection he initially picked, they will at least be strong options to reach the latter stages.

Although perhaps not blessed with the kind of 'superstar' talent they've had at other tournaments over the past 15 years or so, they do have a highly regarded coach and beat Germany 6-0 as recently as November. Nevertheless, their disrupted build-up to the tournament could be telling when their campaign starts.

4. Germany (9.8 per cent)

Joachim Low's going to have to upset the odds if he is to enjoy one last hurrah with Die Mannschaft. The World Cup-winner coach is stepping down a year early after the Euros, with Hansi Flick set to take over.

Having the likes of Thomas Muller back in the squad after a stunning couple of seasons with Bayern Munich will surely improve their chances – though our model doesn't take player data into account.

 

The predictor will see that Germany have failed to beat Denmark and North Macedonia in two of their three most recent games, while they also have a particularly hard group.

5. Portugal (9.6 per cent)

The other major footballing power from the 'Group of Death' – our predictor suggests Portugal are the least likely of themselves, France and Germany to win Euro 2020.

Nevertheless, La Selecao will surely feel good about themselves heading into the competition. Their squad is arguably significantly better than the one that won Euro 2016, while coach Fernando Santos is a shrewd operator.

They also have this chap up front called Cristiano Ronaldo, who is one away from setting a new record for the most goals (10) in European Championship history.

THE REST OF THE FIELD

According to our predictor, a resurgent Italy and Netherlands are the next most likely to win the tournament, which would represent a rather good turnaround from missing out on the 2018 World Cup – in fact, the Oranje weren't at Euro 2016 either.

At this point there are probably many of you pondering – assuming you've not just scrolled straight down to the list – about England's chances.

Well, the Three Lions' ranking here is a prime example of how a good draw can really pay. While they should – in theory, at least – have more than enough firepower to get out of a group that also contains Croatia, neighbours Scotland and Czech Republic, their route to the final would almost certainly see them come up against one – or more – of Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. They're also probably not helped by the fact they've played more Euros games (31) without reaching the final than any other team.

England's 5.2 per cent chance of success sees them behind Denmark (5.4 per cent), whose path to the final would likely be a little kinder, though the caveat is that the Three Lions could potentially play the vast majority of their matches on home soil at Wembley.

Tournament debutants North Macedonia are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the least likely to win Euro 2020, with their chances rated at 0.02 per cent.

 

6. Italy (7.6 per cent)

7. Netherlands (5.9 per cent)

8. Denmark (5.4 per cent)

9. England (5.2 per cent)

10. Switzerland (2.3 per cent)

11. Sweden (1.5 per cent)

12. Croatia (1.0 per cent)

13. Russia (1.0 per cent)

14. Poland (0.8 per cent)

15. Ukraine (0.8 per cent)

16. Wales (0.6 per cent)

17. Turkey (0.4 per cent)

18. Czech Republic (0.2 per cent)

19. Austria (0.2 per cent)

20. Finland (0.1 per cent)

21. Hungary (0.1 per cent)

22. Scotland (0.1 per cent)

23. Slovakia (0.04 per cent)

24. North Macedonia (0.02 per cent)

Roberto Martinez will not rush Eden Hazard back into Belgium's starting line-up and says Kevin De Bruyne looks "fresh" and "ready" for Euro 2020.

Hazard has been blighted by injuries since joining Real Madrid from Chelsea two years ago and there have been concerns over his fitness for the European Championship.

The winger gave the Red Devils a lift on Sunday, though, making his first international appearance for 19 months as a late substitute in a 1-0 victory over Croatia.

Belgium boss Martinez will be patient with Hazard, who looks set to be on the bench for the Group B opener against Russia at Saint Petersburg Stadium on Saturday.

The Spaniard said: "I think the target for Eden was to be on the pitch and I think that was almost a psychological step. You need to be on the pitch, in a match scenario and it doesn't matter the minutes.

"It wasn't the case Eden needs to play bigger chunks of time on the pitch but I think the next step now will be in training to try to get the match intensity, but I was very pleased in the way that Eden came on, affected the pace of the because it's very hard to come on as a substitute to adapt to the pace of the game.

"It was a needed step, it wasn't about the minutes, it was about being able to do make that step without risk, in a safe manner and that is what we did."

Martinez is unsure when Hazard will be in a position to play an entire game, but says that is not essential.

He added: "I think it will be difficult to tell when he will be ready. It will depend on a lot of things; how the game goes, what is the scoreline, how demanding the game can be in and out of possession.

"What is important is now he is medically fit and now we have a good build-up of five days before the Russia game and then it will be about quality.

"It's not going to be about playing minutes, it's going to be about being able to see Eden Hazard with a big smile on his face and when he's on the pitch he can make the difference.

"I'm not too concerned about the minutes and I think it's a different approach, it's a tournament where we need to think we have five substitutes. It's not a lot about the starting XI, it's about every player when he's on the pitch can make a contribution.

"Five substitutes means almost 50 per cent of the outfield players can almost share the minutes, so I think that approach is going to be very important in this tournament."

Midfielder De Bruyne linked up with the Belgium squad on Monday as he recovers from the fractured nose and left orbital he suffered in Manchester City's Champions League final loss to Chelsea.

Martinez will take no risks with De Bruyne against Russia but gave a positive update on the playmaker's condition after he underwent surgery.

"Kevin De Bruyne has joined the group and that’s fantastic news," said the former Everton manager. "He looks ready, he looks fresh and just for him walking into the dining room was a real highlight of the day.

"He watched the game [against Croatia] and he's already in the mood of the team and is looking forward to slowly taking his own pace with the medical team. But it makes a big difference when he's with the players and is part of the group."

Asked how De Bruyne's recovery is going, Martinez replied: "Very well, the medical intervention went extremely well. It's still a very fresh one, so will take a few days, but the initial reaction has been really positive and he seems ready. He’s looking more forwards than backwards."

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