UEFA EURO 2000 got off to an explosive start as co-hosts Belgium claimed an impressive 2-1 victory over Sweden in Brussels.
Thrilling strikes in a three-minute period either side of half-time from Bart Goor and Emile Mpenza put Robert Waseige's men 2-0 up, but a bizarre goal brought Sweden back into it. Belgium endured a few scares before claiming the Group B spoils, even after the 81st-minute dismissal of Sweden captain Patrik Andersson.
It had all begun so brightly for the Scandinavian side, with Kennet Andersson forcing goalkeeper Filip De Wilde into action inside 20 seconds. It hardly helped salve the nerves of a Belgium side desperate to put on a good show for their supporters. Sweden came again, with Joos Valgaeren diverting Patrik Andersson's powerful free-kick wide and the ensuing corner meant the pressure remained on the home side.
Belgium were not exactly helping their cause as they conceded a succession of free-kicks, but gradually they began to make inroads. Branko Strupar led the way with a twisting shot and then a header, both of which were off target. The pace of Gert Verheyen gave them a presence down the right that promised better things. When he escaped to send over a dangerous cross Mpenza stretched to head just over.
Two minutes before half-time Belgium took the lead, Bart Goor using his strength to dispossess Roland Nilsson, then showing a quick burst of pace to give himself room for a left-footed shot that defeated Magnus Hedman at his near post. Nilsson was promptly substituted, yet the Belgian defence was unhinged again within seconds of the restart. Strupar's audacious flick sent Mpenza clear, and he crashed a stunning shot past Hedman.
Belgium's two-goal margin survived for only seven minutes as a slip from De Wilde brought Sweden back into the game. Attempting to field a back pass he stood on the ball and presented Johan Mjällby with a simple chance. The keeper atoned three minutes later, when he left his line to divert a Fredrik Ljungberg effort and then, with minutes remaining, tipped over a Mjällby header.
By then Patrik Andersson had departed after a foul on Goor brought a second yellow card. He will be suspended when Sweden attempt to get their Group B campaign up and running against Turkey next time out; Belgium take on Italy.
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