Russia have home advantage as the game is being played in St Petersburg, although we know that at times home advantage counts for nothing and having lost seven times to their opponents they have a tough task in trying to get anything out of FIFA’s top ranked national side- Belgium, who will be looking to continue their perfect results from qualifying.
- Head to head:
The pendulum seems to swing only one way when these two meet as Russia has lost to Belgium home and away in Euro 2020 qualifying and have failed to beat them in seven historical meetings D2, L5 scoring just five in their last five meetings against the Red Devils.
- Previous Tournaments:
Belgium is the first team to have ten out of ten wins in qualification scoring 40 and conceding three and preparations haven’t been bad either as they have won 12 out of 16 matches D3, L1 leading up to this tournament. Russia failed to make it past the group stage in Euro 2016 but had a good run in the 2018 World Cup where they reached the quarter-finals and have won 16 of 29 games D5, L8, with 75% of their wins seeing over 2.5 goals. They also hold an impressive record on matchday one of major tournaments, losing one of five (W2, D2) that dates way back to Euro 2008. Their qualifying campaign saw them win an impressive eight out of 10 games scoring 33 goals along the way.
Belgium is 7/10 to win the game and Russia 4/1 to win the game.
- Defensive Record:
With only five named defenders for Belgium, it is clear to see they have gone all out attacking which means the door is open at the back and anybody has a chance to score against them, but they have conceded only two goals in their last five games W3, D2 and Russia can always be a threat and have conceded five in their last five games. W3, D1, L1.
- Players to watch:
Romelu Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time top scorer and scored his 59th goal for his country last time out and also led Inter Milan to the Serie A title. Russia’s Artem Dzuyba has been on the winning side in 16 of the 19 games he’s scored in D2, L1 and will be hoping to get on the scoresheet again for a shock win for his Russian side. However, Belgium’s midfield star Eden Hazard hasn’t been in the best of forms for club Real Madrid, but he seems ever reliable for his country and will be looking to get that form back in time for this tournament.
- Team News:
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) doubt. He has had surgery on the acute nose bone fracture and left orbital fracture sustained to his face in the Champions League final loss to Chelsea but will be part of the squad possibly just missing out on the first game. Axel Witsel (Belgium) is continuing rehabilitation and hopes to be back for further games.
- Predicted Line-ups:
Belgium possible starting line-up: Courtois; Alderweireld, Denayer, Vertonghen; Meunier, Castagne, Dendoncker, Tielemans; E. Hazard, Carrasco; Lukaku
Russia possible starting line-up: Semyonov, Dzhikiya, Kudryashov; Fernandes, Zobnin, Ozdoev, Zhirkov; Golovin, Miranchuk; Dzbuya
With first half goals in 22 of Belgium’s last 24 matches this game could really swing either way, but you expect Belgium to take all three points with talents such as Eden Hazard and co proving too strong for Alexei Miranchuk and his team.
- Player’s view:
Jan Vertonghen (Belgium): “I don’t think Belgium is favourite for the tournament. To me that would be France or England. But I do believe we can beat them. No country will like playing against us, I can tell you that! I truly believe we can take every team in the Euros.”
Artem Dzyuba (Russia): “There are maybe some nerves but I don’t feel any pressure. We’ve analysed all the games, know exactly what we should do. I like it that Russia are tactically flexible and may have different approaches to the game.”
Last six form guide:
Although Belgium are one of the favourites, Russia will be looking to keep their good run in the first games of tournaments going and will look to win their sixth opening game and get out of the group stages this time, they will also want to continue impressing as they did in the 2018 World Cup by maintaining a strong winning run and getting as far as they can however in their way will be a Belgium side looking to stamp their authority on the international stage and this time go far enough to be able to lift the trophy as unpredictable winners Portugal did in Euro 2016.
If Vertonghen’s view is matched by the rest of the squad then everybody should watch out for the Red Devils, although their opponents won’t give up easily. Belgium are clearly looking to beat anything and everything in their way, starting with Russia on their home soil.