Euro 2020 Group B: Belgium bid for glory

Red Devils are one of the favourites for the European competition as they aim for a first ever major tournament win


AFP June 02, 2021

PARIS:

Star-studded Belgium will be the clear favourites for Group B at Euro 2020 as they aim for a first ever major tournament win, while dark horses Denmark boast a squad packed with talent.

Here AFP Sport casts its eye over the four teams trying to reach the knockout stage.

Roberto Martinez's side are one of the clear favourites for Euro 2020 thanks to a host of star names who have propelled the Red Devils to the top of the FIFA rankings.

Belgium scored 40 times in their perfect qualifying campaign, putting seven past Group B rivals Russia, and conceded just three. They have quality in every position but could be without star man Kevin De Bruyne who suffered two facial fractures in Manchester City's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea at the weekend.

Another key flair player, Eden Hazard, comes into the tournament in the worst form of his career off the back of two injury-ravaged seasons at Real Madrid.

With De Bruyne sweating on his availability for the Euro and Hazard far from his best, Lukaku is the attacker coming in to the tournament with the best form. Fresh from scoring 24 Serie A goals as Inter Milan romped to the Italian title, the 28-year-old has never looked in such devastating condition.

With a host of players plying their trade in Europe's top leagues, Kasper Hjulmand's Denmark look a strong bet to bloody some noses at the delayed Euro, with a strong squad led by playmaker Christian Eriksen and backed by the likes of Borussia Dortmund's Thomas Delaney and RB Leipzig's Yussuf Poulsen.

In Simon Kjaer they have a dominating presence in central defence alongside Champions League winner Andres Christensen and Kasper Schmeichel is one of the strongest goalkeepers at the tournament.

Their form coming into the Euro has been impressive as well, smashing 14 goals past Israel, Moldova and Austria without reply in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers and there are quiet hopes they can repeat the heroics of 1992, when they won the whole thing.

Playing all three of their group games in Copenhagen is also sure to be a big boost.

A tricky start to the Denmark talisman's time in Italy left many observers wondering if he would be able to get out of Inter Milan in time to get games ahead of the Euro, but the 29-year-old regained his form over last season and will be key to the Danes' display this summer.

Underdogs Finland will come into the Euro full of enthusiasm as they prepare for their first ever major tournament, and they are taking inspiration from Iceland who reached the quarter-finals in their first big time outing five years ago.

The focus will be on striker Teemu Pukki but Finland boast talent elsewhere in the squad, including Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara and Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky.

Home and away wins in the Nations League over both Ireland and Bulgaria show they are capable of putting a run of results together, as did their shock friendly win over world champions France.

Pukki parties spread across Finland after he fired the Finns to the finals with 10 goals in qualifying, and he comes into the tournament on form having scored 26 times in Norwich City's successful Premier League promotion charge.

The late blooming 31-year-old is confident he will be ready despite an ankle ligament tear in early May, and will go into the tournament just two goals shy of Finland's all-time record scorer Jari Litmanen.

Russia approach the Euro in much the same fashion as they did the 2018 World Cup, as a team not expected to go very far in the tournament.

Captain Artem Dzyuba will lead the line for Stanislav Cherchesov's team but there isn't much else that inspires in this Russia squad.

Cherchesov will be hoping Aleksandr Golovin sparks into life. Part of a Monaco team that pushed for the French Ligue 1 title this past season, the midfielder is one the few Russian players to ply his trade away from his home nation and has the quality to supply Dzyuba.

Dzyuba is Russia's main goal threat and the key to Cherchesov's side making a dent in their group rivals. An outspoken character, Dzyuba top scored in the Russian Premier League with 20 goals as Zenit won the title for the third straight season.

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