History suggests Finland and Belgium could end their Group B campaigns with another close contest in Saint Petersburg.
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Finland and Belgium conclude their Group B campaigns in Saint Petersburg, with history suggesting a close contest in prospect.
• There has been little between the teams in their 11 matches to date, Finland recording four wins to Belgium's three while scoring 19 goals, one fewer than their opponents.
• The side's last two matches have both been 1-1 friendly draws in Belgium, with a late equaliser in each contest. Most recently, Romelu Lukaku's 89th-minute strike cancelled out a Kasper Hämäläinen goal eight minutes into the second half in Brussels on 1 June 2016; in Ghent on 9 February 2011, with Markku Kanerva serving as the away side's caretaker coach, Finland's Roni Porokara struck in the 90th minute after Axel Witsel had put Belgium in front a minute past the hour.
• Those two draws extended Finland's unbeaten run against Belgium to seven matches (W4 D3), since a 6-1 FIFA World Cup qualifying loss in Waregem in October 1968 in which Lon Polleunis scored a hat-trick for the home side. That made it three Belgium wins and a draw in the teams' first four matches, in qualifiers for the 1954 and 1970 World Cups.
• The sides' sole previous EURO contests came in qualifying for UEFA EURO 2008, when Finland won 2-0 in Helsinki thanks to goals from Jonatan Johansson and Alexei Eremenko before a scoreless draw in Brussels. Neither side reached the finals, however, Finland finishing fourth in Group A on 24 points, one place and six points above the Red Devils.
EURO facts: Finland
• This is Finland's debut in the UEFA European Championship. The closest they previously came to reaching the finals was in the UEFA EURO 2008 preliminaries when they failed to beat Portugal in their final qualifier, allowing their opponents to qualify instead thanks to a 0-0 draw in Porto.
• Finland are the 34th country to have qualified for the EURO.
• Having never qualified for a FIFA World Cup, this is Finland's debut in a major tournament.
• Markku Kanerva's side won six of their ten UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers (L4) to finish second in Group J behind Italy.
• Teemu Pukki scored ten of Finland's 16 goals in qualifying. Having also provided an assist, he was involved in 68.75% of their qualifying strikes.
• This is Finland's second match in Saint Petersburg, where they played one of the 12 UEFA EURO 2020 hosts Russia on Matchday 2.
EURO facts: Belgium
• This is Belgium's second successive UEFA European Championship final tournament and their sixth EURO in total.
• The Red Devils' biggest achievement to date was reaching the final of this tournament in 1980, when they lost 2-1 to West Germany in Rome.
• In 2016, Belgium's first EURO finals since they co-hosted UEFA EURO 2000 with the Netherlands, a team coached by Marc Wilmots finished second in Group E and beat Hungary 4-0 in the round of 16 – their biggest EURO finals victory – only to suffer a 3-1 quarter-final defeat by Wales.
• This time round, Roberto Martínez's side won all ten of their qualifiers to finish first in Group I, increasing the number of countries to have reached the finals with a perfect record to eight, Italy also having achieved the feat in the UEFA EURO 2020 preliminaries. Of the previous six to have won every qualifier, however, only Spain (2012) went on to win the tournament itself.
• The 9-0 win against San Marino on 10 October 2019 is Belgium's biggest UEFA European Championship victory.
• Belgium were the top scorers in qualifying overall with 40 goals in their ten matches. Fifteen different Belgium players found the net in qualifying.
• The Red Devils conceded only three goals, the joint best record along with Turkey.
• Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne both provided seven assists in qualifying, fewer only than the Netherlands' Memphis Depay (eight). Hazard scored five goals to De Bruyne's four; Romelu Lukaku managed seven goals and four assists.
• This is Belgium's fifth match in Saint Petersburg, where they faced Russia on Matchday 1. They lost 1-0 there to France in the 2018 World Cup semi-final but recovered to beat England 2-0 in the third-place play-off four days later thanks to goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard, and also won 4-1 away to Russia in UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying, Eden Hazard scoring two goals and Thorgan Hazard and Lukaku once apiece on 16 November 2019.
Links and trivia
• Finland's 2-0 UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying win against Belgium on 6 June 2007 marked a significant moment in Finnish football. An eagle owl appeared in the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, sitting on top of the crossbar and causing the game to be halted for several minutes. Finland, coached by Roy Hodgson, scored both goals after the giant bird had left and soon after adopted the nickname Huuhkajat – 'Eagle Owls' in Finnish.
• Has played in Belgium:
Jere Uronen (Genk 2016–)
• Have played together:
Jere Uronen & Timothy Castagne (Genk 2016/17)
• Pukki and Jason Denayer were briefly team-mates at Celtic in summer 2014.
• Nacer Chadli and substitute Dries Mertens both won their first caps for Belgium in the February 2011 friendly against Finland, for whom Joona Toivio was also an international debutant and Lukáš Hrádecký made his first start in goal.
• De Bruyne made his debut for Belgium in a Turku friendly on 11 August 2010 that Finland won 1-0.