Finland 0-2 Belgium: 5 talking points as Red Devils cruise to victory | UEFA Euro 2020

Belgium defeated Finland 2-0 in their final Group B fixture at UEFA Euro 2020
Belgium defeated Finland 2-0 in their final Group B fixture at UEFA Euro 2020
Ume Elvis

A dominant display from start to finish saw Belgium pick up a 2-0 victory over Finland in their final Group B fixture at UEFA Euro 2020.

The Red Devils had already secured progress to the next round but needed just one point to guarantee top spot.

Despite progress being guaranteed, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez still named a relatively full-strength squad, with captain Eden Hazard starting a game for the first time in over a month.

The Belgians expectedly dominated proceedings from the get-go but were let down by uncharacteristic indecision in the final third. On the few occasions that they got their act right, an inspired Lukas Hradecky in the Finland goal kept them at bay.

Finland seemed content to sit back and absorb the pressure. They also defended resolutely to keep out wave after wave of Belgium's attacks.

Kevin de Bruyne was in inspirational form, and his vision helped slice open the Finnish defense at will. Jeremy Doku was also lively down the flank, but the first half ended goalless.

It was more of the same in the second half, with the only difference being that Finland showed a little more ambition in the attacking third.

Romelu Lukaku had the ball in the back of the net midway through the second half. However, the goal was ruled out for a very marginal offside decision after consultations with the VAR.

Hradecky had been unbeatable for most of the game. However, he was unfortunate to see the ball deflect off his outstretched hand after Thomas Vermaelen's header had rebounded off the post in the 74th minute.

Lukaku made sure of the result for Belgium when he expertly controlled De Bruyne's deft pass into his path. He then showed great strength to hold off his marker and place a right-footed finish past Hradecky nine minutes from time.

The victory guaranteed Belgium top spot, while Finland will have to wait to find out their qualification fate.

Here are five talking points from the game.

Also Read: David James column - Top 5 favorites to win Euro 2020

#5 Impressive Belgium send statement of warning

Belgium finished the group stage with a 100% record
Belgium finished the group stage with a 100% record

Belgium are in the era of a bonafide golden generation and arguably have the most balanced squad on the international scene.

Virtually every position in the team has at least two world-beaters who have proven themselves on the highest stage, and it has been this way for the last six years.

The 2014 World Cup was the tournament where they announced their arrival, and their quarterfinal exit to Argentina was seemingly a platform for bigger things.

A shock quarterfinal exit to Wales followed at Euro 2016, but it was widely expected that the 2018 FIFA World Cup was where Belgium would come good. Despite eliminating Brazil in the last eight, the Benelux nation fell to eventual champions France in the semifinals to suffer yet more heartbreak.

Time is running out for the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne to fulfill their potential on the international scene. Euro 2020 is arguably their last shot at glory.

Belgium entered the tournament as joint-favorites with France. The manner in which Roberto Martinez's side saw off their group-stage competition must have sent a statement of intent to their rivals.

Also Read: Paul Merson's column - Euro 2020: 5 surprise contenders for the Player of the Tournament award

#4 Romelu Lukaku gives a complete striker's performance

Romelu Lukaku scored his third goal of the tournament
Romelu Lukaku scored his third goal of the tournament

Romelu Lukaku has taken his game to new heights under Antonio Conte's management, especially with his link-up play and hold-up ability with his back to goal.

This facet of his game has been in full glare throughout the European Championship, especially in the comeback victory over Denmark.

Despite not getting on the scoresheet, the former Everton man had a hand in both goals and caused problems for the Danish backline with his strength and directness.

Against Finland, it was more of the same from Belgium's record goalscorer. However, for most of the game, he was frustrated by Hradecky and some dogged defending.

The 28-year-old was unlucky to have seen a strike ruled out for the tightest of offside decisions but was not to be denied a second time.

Lukaku's goal took his tally to three in the competition, joint-top with Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick. This was no less than he deserved for a brilliant display.

Also Read: Fabrizio Romano's Transfer Roundup: Barcelona acting decisively in the transfer market, Manchester United working on Sancho and more

#3 Finland still in with a shot at qualification, but only just

Finland have an outside shot of qualification but need some remarkable results
Finland have an outside shot of qualification but need some remarkable results

Finland came into the game against Belgium with their fate in hand but faced the arduous task of needing a win to guarantee progress to the knockout rounds.

A draw might have been enough if Russia had failed to beat Denmark. With the Danes getting the job done against the Russians, an unlikely point against the top-ranked side would have seen Finland finish second in Group B.

The tournament debutants defended with their lives and were still in the game with just over 15 minutes to go. However, the unrelenting Belgium pressure finally told, and two goals in the final 15 minutes crushed Finnish hearts.

There was still some light at the end of the tunnel for Finland, though. Denmark's convincing 4-1 victory over Russia saw the 1992 champions complete a remarkable turnaround that saw them go from bottom to second on the final day.

With Russia eliminated, Finland secured third spot and stand an outside chance of finishing among the best runners-up.

However, their chances of progression look highly unlikely. They are currently the fourth-best third-placed team and need some remarkable results in the final three group-stage games to progress.

First, they will need Croatia and Scotland to play out a draw in their winner-takes-all clash on Tuesday. A victory for either side will take them to four points and qualification to the next round.

They also need Slovakia to defeat Spain in their final match on Wednesday. Anything other than these two results will bring Finland's debut tournament to an end.

Also Read: Jim Beglin's column - Euro 2020: 5 players who could impress in unfamiliar positions

#2 Eden Hazard completes the full 90 minutes for the first time in almost two years

Real Madrid star Eden Hazard captained Belgium from start to finish
Real Madrid star Eden Hazard captained Belgium from start to finish

Eden Hazard completed a dream transfer from Chelsea to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019. That move was supposed to be his trump card to announce himself on the grandest stage.

The move, however, has not panned out well for either party, chiefly due to fitness issues.

The Belgium international's time in the Spanish capital has been nothing short of a disaster. The player, who was once famed for his incredible fitness levels, can simply not stay fit.

Several injuries at the Bernabeu have limited the former Lille man to something of an afterthought, two years after his celebrated arrival.

The 30-year-old was handed a starting shirt and captain's armband for Belgium against Finland and was present until the blast of the final whistle.

While his performance might not have pulled up trees, the fact that he was not substituted before full-time gave an important message about his fitness.

Incredibly, it was the first time that Hazard had played the full 90 minutes of a game since he starred as Real Madrid posted a 3-1 victory over Real Sociedad on 23 November 2019.

There was a brief period in the first half when the Belgium captain grimaced after a challenge on his problematic ankle, but he trudged on to finish the game.

Fans of Belgium and especially Real Madrid will be hoping that Hazard can build on from this.

Also Read: Six greatest players who never received an international cap

#1 Majestic Kevin de Bruyne puts up another sublime midfield performance for Belgium

Manchester City midfiKevin de Bruyne controlled proceedings for Belgium against Finland
Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne controlled proceedings for Belgium against Finland

Kevin de Bruyne has been widely lauded as the best midfielder in the world over the last few years and rightly so. The Manchester City man effortlessly controls the tempo of games.

The 29-year-old came into Euro 2020 having successfully retained his PFA Player of the Year crown. And while the merits of the award might be debatable, its winner's standing in the game is beyond reproach.

De Bruyne was also nursing an injury that saw him miss Belgium's opening game, but he returned with a bang in the second match against Denmark.

Yussuf Poulsen put the Danes ahead with a second-minute strike, and the home side should have undoubtedly doubled their lead in a first half that they totally dominated.

Considering the wealth of talent available to Belgium, this was an unforgivable mistake, and that proved to be the case in a rampant second half.

Kevin de Bruyne came onto the field at halftime and needed just 10 minutes to make a mark, teeing up Thorgan Hazard up for the equalizer.

The Manchester City man completed the comeback victory with a thunderbolt strike from the edge of the area to send Belgium through to the knockout round.

De Bruyne was handed his first start of the tournament against Finland, and he was once again at his brilliant best. He constantly sliced open the opposition defense with his pristine through-balls and excellent deliveries that were not capitalized on.

His other-worldly vision was in full glare as he put the ball on a plate for Lukaku to score in the 65th minute, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.

De Bruyne was unfazed by that and continued to do what he does best. He delivered the corner-kick from which Thomas Vermaelen forced an own goal before flicking the ball for Romelu Lukaku to score Belgium's second of the night.

That made it two assists in just one-and-a-half matches for Kevin de Bruyne. With their talisman in this form, his compatriots will fancy Belgium's chances of going all the way.

Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh
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