Finland 0-2 Belgium: Red Devils' pressure pays
Monday, 21 June 2021
A cruel own goal and a Romelu Lukaku finish broke Finland's resistance in Group B.
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Belgium confirmed their place in the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 as Group B winners after breaking down stubborn Finland, who finish third in the section.
Match in brief
Mindful of how much a point could be worth to them in a tight group, Finland ceded possession to the Red Devils, defending in force and with diligence. Belgium have overwhelmed other sides at this EURO, but Markku Kanerva's team gave them only fleeting glimpses of goal, their best first-half chance falling to Jeremy Doku, who drew a superb save from Lukas Hradecky towards the end of the opening period.
The goalkeeper produced another spectacular block to deny Hazard just after the hour, by which time Glen Kamara had managed to get a first shot on goal for the Finns. Belgium thought they had made the breakthrough soon afterwards, but a Lukaku effort was ruled offside.
However, fate had a cruel blow in store for Hradecky, who spilled the ball into his own net after Thomas Vermaelen's shot ricocheted back at him off the goalpost. Hope of a comeback soon faded, Lukaku thumping in his third goal of the tournament after a neat turn inside the penalty area.
Star of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
“He was instrumental in Belgium’s attack and created a lot.”
Mixu Paatelainen, UEFA Technical Observer
Check out every Heineken Star of the Match at UEFA EURO 2020.
Mikael Erävouri, Finland reporter
Compact defending was again the backbone of Finland's game and they managed to deny Belgium clear-cut chances in the first half. The pressure mounted in the second, and a somewhat lucky goal for Belgium was the turning point. Belgium fully deserved to win, but Finland made it tough for them, and the EURO newcomers can hold their heads up, whether third place in the group carries them on to the knockout rounds or not.
Alyssa Saliou, Belgium reporter
We had to wait quite some time for goals, and for a while it seemed like Finland were on their way to springing a surprise. However, Belgium have now finished top of the group, and I expected nothing less from the Red Devils. They got the job done and Lukaku looks in great form, while Hazard, Axel Witsel and De Bruyne all got minutes on the pitch. Now for the knockout stage.
Markku Kanerva, Finland coach: "We were a little unlucky with the first goal. I'm disappointed we couldn't get a point. We now have a little, little chance of going through, but I'm proud of our performance in the tournament. We showed we belong here."
Tim Sparv, Finland midfielder: "I'm extremely disappointed. We defended very well, we worked really hard. I'd been hoping for more but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Belgium in the final."
Paulus Arajuuri, Finland defender: "It was a really good game. Belgium are a very good side, but we played well as a team, we didn't give them any space. We battled well, we were very disciplined. Up to the 74th minute it was a brilliant game from Finland, but Belgium showed why they're number one in the world. We had hoped to finish second in the group. That was the dream, but now we can only hope."
Roberto Martínez, Belgium coach, speaking to EURO2020.com: "We were really focussed, professional. We defended very well and waited for the first goal. We knew that would open everything up. We were almost there in the first half but we adapted to a difficult team. Finland have had a great tournament, and we had to be at our best to get the win today."
Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium midfielder: "It was a tough game today. We knew that Finland would play very compact and would be difficult to break down. But from the moment we scored, we knew they had to come out and it was more open. Our second half was a lot better."
Jeremy Doku, Belgium winger speaking to EURO2020.com: "I'm very happy with my performance. It was a good game, a little difficult to make chances. The coach told me to enjoy it. It was a big opportunity for me [to impress], and that's what I did. Finland defended very deep and we can learn from games like this. But we're a big team, we're not scared [of anyone]."
- Belgium have lost only one of their last 26 internationals (W22 D3 L1). They are unbeaten in their most recent 12 fixtures (W10 D2).
- Lukaku is first Belgian player to score three goals at a single EURO final tournament; he has scored five EURO finals goals in total – three more than any previous Red Devils player.
- For the first time, Belgium have finished with three wins from three in a EURO group stage; they have also notched seven goals and conceded just one – both national bests at a EURO.
- Belgium remained unbeaten in the group stage on one previous occasion: 1980 (W1 D2 L0); they progressed straight to the final as a result of topping their group back then, and that is also the only previous time they have won their group at a EURO.
- In their last 13 group matches in EURO final tournaments and World Cups, Belgium have won 12 and lost just one.
- Finland have won just one of their last nine matches (W1 D2 L6).
- Finland were unbeaten in their last seven internationals against Belgium (W4 D3) prior to today, the most recent three of those games all ending level.
- Belgium have won each of their last 13 EURO matches (qualifying and final combined); they have scored two goals or more in five of their last seven EURO finals fixtures.
- Belgium have lost just one of their last 26 matches (W22 D3 L1). They are unbeaten in their most recent 12 internationals (W10 D2).
- Belgium have drawn only two of their previous 19 EURO tournament matches. Their last draw was against Italy at the 1980 finals (they have played 14 games since).
Finland: Hradecky; Toivio, Arajuuri, O’Shaughnessy; Raitala, Lod, Sparv (Schüller 59), Kamara, Uronen; Pohjanpalo, Pukki
Belgium: Courtois; Boyata, Denayer, Vermaelen; Trossard, De Bruyne, Witsel, Chadli; Doku, Lukaku, E Hazard
Belgium vs third-placed side in Group A/D/E/F in London on 26 June
Finland must wait to see if they are one of the best third-placed teams