After qualifying to the finals with a superb record in the qualifiers, with ten complete victories and 40 goals against only 3 in their net, Belgium renewed the date with Russia at the beginning of its European Cup campaign, as the "Red Devils" seek to confirm their position among the greats. </p><div> <p>The men of Spanish coach Roberto Martinez hope to build on the impressive result they achieved in the World Cup Russia 2018, when they led the team to its best result in the World Cup by winning third place.
Coincidentally, the Belgian team fell into the second group along with its Russian counterpart, who also faced him in the qualifiers for the current continental championship, and beat them back 3-1 and back 4-1.
The return victory, which was achieved in November 2019 at the same stadium hosting Saturday in Saint Petersburg, was the two teams’ confrontation in the first round of this group’s competition, which will witness on the same day a match between Denmark and the newcomer Finland in Copenhagen.
The “Red Devils” enter the continental championship, distributed to 11 European cities, to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of its launch, which was postponed from the summer of 2020 due to the Corona virus, against the background of a single defeat in the last 23 matches at the official and friendly levels, and it was against England 1-2 last November in the European Nations League. .
“I’d rather be in 20th place and win the title”
Based on what he achieved in the 2018 World Cup and after, the Belgian national team deserved its lead in the FIFA rankings, but its defender Jan Vertonghen does not attach great importance to the classification, as he said on the eve of his country’s first match in the continental finals, “It is wonderful that Belgium is in the first place in the classification. FIFA, but I would prefer us to be in 20th place and win the European Cup.”
“I don’t think Belgium are the favorites to win the tournament. For me it will be France or England. But I think we can defeat them. We have beaten England on some occasions in the past few years. The same is true of France. I can assure you that there is no What country would love to play against us!”
“I really think we can beat any team in the European Cup,” he stressed.
But Martinez’s men are starting the tournament amid doubts about the physical condition of some players, especially the star Kevin De Bruyne, who was injured during the Champions League final, which his team Manchester City lost to his compatriot Chelsea.
He suffered a double fracture in the face, which will force him to participate in a mask, if he recovers in time.
And the other star is Eden Hazard, who lived two disastrous seasons with Real Madrid, due to a series of terrible injuries that chased him and criticism of his excess weight.
The feat is hoping to play a tournament without troubles in his thighs and ankles.
To make matters worse, midfielder Axel Witsel suffered a severe ankle injury that could keep him out of the first round.
Mertens warns of Dziuba
Vertonghen commented on this issue, saying, “Our preparations for the tournament were not easy. A lot of players are suffering from injuries. I had the same injury as Kevin De Bruyne now. Of course it takes some time (to recover), but fortunately we have a great team with a lot.” of talent.”
After winning the inaugural European Cup title in the name of the Soviet Union in 1960, and competing for the title in the following three editions, Russia was unable to impose itself as a major continental player except for 2008 when it reached the semi-finals.
But it is counting on playing the group stage at home and among its fans in order to bypass at least the group stage led by expert coach Stanislav Cherchesov, who depends on the nucleus of a squad that fought the last World Cup on its soil, led by Alexei Golovin, the French midfielder of Monaco, striker Artem Dzyuba and veteran Yuri Zhirkov.
Veteran Belgium midfielder Dries Mertens revealed, “I am looking forward to playing against Russia again. We know the team and how they play. I think they have great players and high spirits. They are performing well in major tournaments.”
“We treat them with great respect. Obviously we want to win the game. I think one of the biggest advantages of Russia is the ability of their striker to keep the ball. He is very strong and athletic. I really like the way Dzyuba plays, but I have complete confidence in the defenders.”
On the Russian side, midfielder Alexei Ionov saw that his team had made progress in the past few years, asking, “Did we get stronger over the past year? Well, we did well in the qualifiers and we were ready for the European Cup, and then it was postponed. But on the other hand. This allowed us to be better prepared (for the finals),” in which Russia has been without interruption since 2004.
The Russian national team suffered a blow on the eve of its first match after it was forced to replace Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Andrey Mostovoy, due to infection with the Corona virus, and replaced him with Dynamo Moscow defender Roman Yevgenyev, who was in the initial squad of coach Stanislav Cherchesov.
“Due to the unfavorable result of the BCR examination that Andrei Mostovoy underwent, the technical staff decided to call in defender Roman Yevgenyev to replace him,” the Russian team said in its Telegram newspaper.