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.
• Belgium have won their first two games, against Russia in Saint Petersburg (3-0) and Denmark in Copenhagen (2-1), to qualify for the round of 16 with a game to spare and will secure first place with a draw or victory.
• Finland followed their 1-0 win against Denmark with a defeat by the same scoreline in Russia, and are level with the Russians on three points. They will be through with a win, or a draw if Russia lose to Denmark in the other concluding Group B game. Finland will top the group if they win and Russia do not.
• There has been little to choose 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. They are one of two countries making their first appearance at UEFA EURO 2020, along with North Macedonia in Group C.
• 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 lost to one of the 11 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 beat 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. Martínez's men 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. Lukaku (2) and Meunier were on target in the Matchday 1 win against Russia.
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.
• Glen Kamara's Rangers posted four wins out of four against Belgian clubs in the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League, beating Standard Liège in the group stage (2-0 a, 3-2 h) and Antwerp in the round of 16 (4-3 a, 5-2 h). The Finland international was in the starting XI for all four matches.
• Finland's opening success against Denmark is the only win they have managed in their last eight matches (D2 L5), a sequence that incorporated defeats in their two pre-tournament friendlies – 0-2 away to Sweden on 29 May and 0-1 at home to Estonia on 4 June – as well as the Matchday 2 loss to Russia.
• Joel Pohjanpalo's match-winning header against Denmark made him the first Finnish footballer to score at a major tournament. It was his tenth international goal and third in as many internationals following a double in a 3-2 friendly defeat against Switzerland in March. The Union Berlin striker has scored all of Finland's last three goals.
• While no Finland players had any major tournament experience until Matchday 1, only two of their 26-man squad experienced group stage European club football in 2020/21 – goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky with Bayer Leverkusen and Glen Kamara with Rangers, both in the UEFA Europa League.
• Kamara was a Scottish Premiership champion with Rangers in the season just ended, while Teemu Pukki scored 26 goals to help Norwich City win the English Championship and return after a year's absence to the Premier League. In 2020 Daniel O'Shaughnessy was also a Finnish domestic double winner with HJK Helsinki.
• Pukki's tally of ten EURO qualifying goals means he needs one more to become his country's all-time top scorer in the competition. He currently shares the honour with three other players – Mikael Forssell, Jari Litmanen and Mixu Paatelainen.
• In beating Denmark 2-1 on Matchday 2, Belgium became the first team to come from behind and win at UEFA EURO 2020. The result also stretched their perfect record in this competition, qualifiers included, to 12 wins out of 12.
• Belgium's opening 3-0 win against Russia was their joint biggest victory in a EURO finals group game, matching the one by the same scoreline against the Republic of Ireland on Matchday 2 of UEFA EURO 2016.
• Belgium have the most experienced squad at UEFA EURO 2020, which now contains five players with 100 or more caps, Dries Mertens having joined Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Toby Alderweireld and Eden Hazard by reaching his century against Denmark.
• Roberto Martínez's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Greece in the first of their two pre-UEFA EURO 2020 Brussels friendlies on 3 June, Thorgan Hazard's first-half strike proving insufficient for victory, but they returned to winning ways three days later by defeating Croatia 1-0 thanks to Romelu Lukaku's 60th international goal.
• Lukaku's double against Russia was his 17th for Belgium; he has scored two hat-tricks. He now has 62 goals for his country.
• Thomas Meunier's goal against Russia was his second in successive final tournament appearances, the wing-back having found the net for Belgium against England in the third place play-off of the 2018 FIFA World Cup (2-0) – a game also staged at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.
• Kevin De Bruyne's winner against Denmark was his first goal at the EURO finals, on his sixth appearance, and third in tournament football, having also scored at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups. Thorgan Hazard's equaliser – set up by half-time substitute De Bruyne – was his first at a major tournament.
• The Red Devils have now won 21 of their last 25 matches, the only defeat in that sequence coming against England at Wembley in the UEFA Nations League on 11 October 2020 (1-2), which makes them unbeaten in their last 11 (W9 D2). Despite that setback Belgium qualified for the UEFA Nations League finals in Italy later this year and will meet world champions France in the second semi-final in Turin on 7 October.
• Belgium's squad contains newly-crowned league title winners from England (De Bruyne, Manchester City), Italy (Lukaku, Internazionale) and Spain (Yannick Carrasco, Atlético de Madrid) as well as two Belgian champions in Club Brugge pair Simon Mignolet and Hans Vanaken. They also boast three 2020/21 domestic cup winners apiece from Borussia Dortmund (Thorgan Hazard, Meunier and Witsel) and Leicester City (Timothy Castagne, Dennis Praet and final match-winner Youri Tielemans).
• No fewer than 15 of Belgium's 23-man squad from UEFA EURO 2016 and 18 of their 2018 FIFA World Cup squad have returned to participate in this event. The only major tournament freshmen for UEFA EURO 2020 are Vanaken, Castagne, Praet, Matz Sels, Leandro Trossard and Jérémy Doku.
• Castagne has been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament having sustained facial fractures in the match against Russia.