It took an own goal in the 74th minute for Belgium to break the deadlock before Romelu Lukaku's strike sealed the three points late in the game as Belgium stormed into the Euro 2020 last 16 with a perfect record
Belgium beat Finland 2-0 at Krestovsky stadium on Monday to go through to the last 16 of Euro 2020. It was their third win in as many games. Finland showed great resilience to keep the score goalless till the 74th minute. However, Thomas Vermaelen’s header led to an unfortunate own goal from Finnish goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky. Eight minutes later, Romelu Lukaku, who was denied a goal by VAR earlier finally got on the score sheet.
Roberto Martinez’s side had already qualified for the round of 16 in Euro 2020 coming into Gazprom Arena. Therefore the Belgium boss made eight changes to the starting-XI from the previous match against Denmark. Three notable inclusions in the playing eleven were Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard.
De Bruyne and Witsel were coming back from injuries whereas Hazard was having some fitness issues. De Bruyne came off the bench to score a goal and secure three points for the Red Devils. The Manchester City midfielder continued from where he had left off in the previous game.
The 29-year-old playmaker was involved in both Belgium goals. In the 74th minute, De Bruyne’s corner kick from the left wing led to the first goal. Vermaelen’s header hit the post and was unfortunately turned in by Hradecky. Six minutes from time, De Bruyne picked up Lukaku with a precise through ball on the edge of the penalty area. The Inter Milan striker got inside the box with his first touch and calmly slotted the ball past Hradecky into the back of the net. It was his third goal of the campaign.
De Bruyne and Lukaku caused all sorts of problems for the Finland defence. Fifteen minutes after kickoff De Bruyne picked up Lukaku’s run inside the left side of penalty area. But the 28-year-old forward’s low shot went wide. Seven minutes after that, De Bruyne beat three defenders inside the penalty area but his shot was blocked. Lukaku’s header from De Bruyne’s looping through ball went straight to the hands of the Bayern Leverkusen goalkeeper.
Hradecky made some fine saves to deny the Belgium attackers on a number of occasions. Two minutes after the hour mark, De Bruyne picked up Witsel inside the box, who set the ball for Hazard. However, the Real Madrid man’s low shot was superbly denied by Hradecky. Two minutes after that, De Bruyne and Lukaku combined again to slot the ball in, only to be denied by VAR intervention as Lukaku’s foot was in an off-side position.
Markku Kanerva’s side can be proud of their performance in the tournament. The Scandinavian team beat Denmark in the opening game and finished third in the group with three points, behind Belgium and Denmark. They will now have to wait whether they can go through to the knock-out stage. But, their chances are very slim because of the negative goal difference. Belgium will take on a third-placed team at Seville on Sunday in the round of 16.