Belgium vs Russia: UEFA EURO 2020 match background, facts and stats
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Having beaten Russia twice in qualifying, including a 4-1 triumph in Saint Petersburg, Belgium will be full of confidence for their Group B opener.
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Belgium and Russia are back in opposition for their opening Group B fixture at UEFA EURO 2020 having also been paired together in qualifying – when the Red Devils enjoyed much the better of things.
• Belgium extended their unbeaten record against Russia to seven matches (W5 D2) with two qualifying victories on their way to finishing top in Group I with a maximum 30 points – six more than runners-up Russia.
• However, while this is Russia's fifth consecutive appearance in the UEFA European Championship, Belgium are featuring in a second successive EURO for the first time since 1984. Their UEFA EURO 2016 appearance was the first time they had featured in the tournament for 16 years.
• Belgium are returning to the Saint Petersburg Stadium, where they were 4-1 winners against Russia on 16 November 2019 in their penultimate UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier. After Thorgan Hazard had opened the scoring, brother Eden added two more first-half goals before Romelu Lukaku maintained his record of scoring on all of his qualifying campaign appearances 18 minutes from the end. This was the first time Russia had conceded four goals at home in a competitive fixture, Georgi Dzhikiya's first international goal providing only a late consolation for the hosts.
• Roberto Martínez's Belgium had opened their campaign with a 3-1 win against Stanislav Cherchesov's Russia at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on 21 March 2019. Eden Hazard scored another double after Youri Tielemans' 14th-minute opener – his first international goal – was cancelled out two minutes later by Russia's Denis Cheryshev. The visitors finished with ten men, Aleksandr Golovin picking up a second yellow card in the 90th minute.
• The teams have twice met in the group stage of the FIFA World Cup, and on both occasions Belgium were victorious. A side coached by Marc Wilmots defeated Fabio Capello's Russia 1-0 in Rio de Janeiro at the 2014 tournament thanks to Divock Origi's first international goal two minutes from time.
• Wilmots himself had scored the decisive goal in the teams' game at the 2002 World Cup, a 3-2 victory in Shizuoka, Japan.
• The sides' other matches have been friendlies, with two draws – including 3-3 in Sochi on 28 March 2017 in which Christian Benteke scored twice for the visitors – while Lukaku struck his first two international goals in Belgium's 2-0 victory in Voronezh on 17 November 2010.
• The Soviet Union won four of their five meetings with Belgium – including in the World Cup group stage in 1970 (4-1) and 1982 (1-0) – although the Red Devils won the last of those, coming out on top 4-3 after extra time in the last 16 at the 1986 World Cup. Nico Claesen's 102nd-minute goal settled it despite Igor Belanov's hat-trick for the USSR.
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 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, 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; Lukaku managed seven goals and four assists.
• This is Belgium's fourth match in Saint Petersburg, where they lost 1-0 to France in the 2018 World Cup semi-final but beat England 2-0 in the third-place play-off four days later thanks to goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard.
EURO facts: Russia
• This is Russia's fifth successive EURO final tournament and sixth in seven as an independent nation. They have featured in eight of the last nine EUROs, including this edition, appearing as the Soviet Union in 1988 and the Commonwealth of Independent States four years later, before their debut as Russia in 1996.
• The Soviet Union won the first UEFA European Championship in 1960 and were runners-up in 1964, 1972 and 1988. Russia's best performance since independence came in 2008, when they reached the semi-finals – the only time they have progressed beyond the group stage.
• In 2016, a team coached by Leonid Slutski finished bottom of Group B, picking up their only point in a 1-1 draw against England on Matchday 1. They subsequently lost to Slovakia (1-2) and Wales (0-3).
• Russia have not won in five EURO finals games (D2 L3); their last victory was a 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic in their UEFA EURO 2012 opener. That is their only success in their last seven EURO finals matches (D2 L4).
• Cherchesov's team qualified for UEFA EURO 2020 as Group I runners-up, losing both games to section winners Belgium but winning their other eight fixtures. Like Belgium, they kept seven clean sheets.
• Artem Dzyuba scored nine goals and provided five assists in qualifying, meaning he was directly involved in 42% of Russia's 33 goals.
• Russia's record in Saint Petersburg since 1992 is W10 D1 L3. They won nine successive matches in the city before a 3-3 draw against Spain in a November 2017 friendly, but have managed only one victory and two defeats since, including that 4-1 reverse against Belgium on 16 November 2019.
Links and trivia
• Russia coach Cherchesov was in goal for 45 minutes of the 0-0 friendly draw against Belgium in Brussels in April 1996.
• Axel Witsel played in Saint Petersburg for Zenit between 2012 and 2016, winning the Russian Premier League title in 2014/15 and the Russian Cup and Super Cup in the following campaign.
• Have played together:
Youri Tielemans, Nacer Chadli & Aleksandr Golovin (Monaco 2018/19)
• Thibaut Courtois and Yuri Zhirkov were briefly Chelsea team-mates in summer 2011 after the Belgian goalkeeper joined from Genk, before Zhirkov moved on to Anji.
• Belgium have the most experienced squad at UEFA EURO 2020, their 26 players entering the tournament with combined totals of 1334 international caps and 238 goals – both tallies dwarfing those of their rivals. They also lead the way in figures for competitive internationals (852 appearances, 171 goals) and EURO matches, finals and qualifying combined (285, 58).
• There are four players with 100 or more caps in the Belgium squad – Jan Vertonghen (126), Axel Witsel (109), Toby Alderweireld (108) and Eden Hazard (106) – more than any of the other 23 teams. Dries Mertens could make it five as he enters the tournament on 98 appearances.
• 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 record-extending 60th international goal.
• The Red Devils have won 19 of their last 23 matches, the only defeat in that sequence coming against England at Wembley in the UEFA Nations League on 11 October last year (1-2). 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 (Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City), Italy (Romelu 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, Thomas Meunier and Axel 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.
• Russia warmed up for UEFA EURO 2020 by drawing 1-1 away to Poland on 1 June and beating Bulgaria 1-0 in Moscow four days later. Vyacheslav Karaveev scored the equaliser in Wrocław, with Aleksandr Sobolev converting the late penalty winner in the second encounter.
• That victory against Bulgaria was only the third for Russia in their last 11 matches, the other two coming in World Cup qualifiers against Malta (3-1 a) and Slovenia (2-1 h) in March.
• There are five members of Saint Petersburg club Zenit's 2020/21 Russian Premier League title-winning side in Stanislav Cherchesov's squad – Karaveev, Magomed Ozdoev, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev and 20-goal striker Artem Dzyuba.
• Dzyuba and Aleksandr Golovin are the only two survivors from Russia's UEFA EURO 2016 squad – both players featured in all three games in France – while Zhirkov is a veteran of the two previous EUROs of 2008, when he started every game as Russia reached the semi-finals, and 2012, when he was also ever-present.
• Dzyuba, Golovin and Zhirkov also played for Russia in the home World Cup of 2018, where Kuzyaev, Roman Zobnin, Mário Fernandes, Fedor Kudryashov, Aleksei Miranchuk, four-goal Denis Cheryshev and non-playing Andrei Semenov were also present.
• Russia captain Dzyuba, with 29 international goals, needs one more to go level with Aleksandr Kerzhakov as Russia's all-time top scorer. Dzyuba's tallies of 26 goals in competitive internationals and 17 in the UEFA European Championship – all in the qualifying competition – are already national records.