A cruel own goal and a Romelu Lukaku finish broke Finland’s resistance in Group B.
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
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: “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: “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].”
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