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Euro 2020 could be the last chance for Belgium's golden generation to secure silverware
Euro 2020 could be the last chance for Belgium's golden generation to secure silverware

Group B: Belgium vs Russia, kick-off 8pm (UK time, ITV1)

Euro 2020 could well be the swansong for Belgium’s golden generation.

With that in mind, Roberto Martinez's stars will want to go out with a bang and will fancy their chances of making a statement against Russia in this evening’s Group B encounter.

The pressure is all on the Red Devils, so how will they fare?

One last hurrah?

Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens could all make it to next year’s World Cup — but there are no guarantees.

Form and fitness will play a part and a number of those players will be in their mid-30s when that competition comes around.

Euro 2020 could be the last time this group is together — and that might be incentive enough for them.

Having made it to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup, they will be looking to keep that record of progress going this summer.

A favourable opener?

Belgium went 10 for 10 during qualification, breezing into the European Championship without dropping a point.

They finished six points ahead of Russia and now find themselves alongside them in Group B.

Martinez’s men romped to an aggregate 7-2 win across two matches against Stanislav Cherchesov’s side, one of which was a 4-1 win away from home.

On paper, it looked like an easy win for the visitors but in reality it was not that straightforward.

Russia had more of the ball, attempted more passes and had more shots that day, so tonight might not necessarily be as one-sided as many expect.

Russia can make history

Denis Cheryshev will be aiming to end Russia's miserable record against Belgium
Denis Cheryshev will be aiming to end Russia's miserable record against Belgium

There have been seven clashes between the two countries and Russia are yet to win one.

Belgium have claimed five victories and have a remarkable scoring record in those past encounters.

Ignoring the first match — a goalless draw in 1996 — the Red Devils have scored 16 in six, conceding just seven in the process.

If Cherchesov’s side can end that dismal run, they will be fondly remembered as the first Russian team to beat Belgium and cause an almighty shock in the process.

It is a big opportunity for the Russians tonight.

Injury concerns for Belgium

Will Eden Hazard be firing on all cylinders for Belgium against Russia?
Will Eden Hazard be firing on all cylinders for Belgium against Russia?

Belgium may be one of the favourites but they are rather limping into Euro 2020.

A 1-1 draw with Greece was followed up with a 1-0 win over Croatia during their pre-tournament warm-up matches.

Hazard only appeared as a substitute in the latter game, while De Bruyne joined up with the squad on Monday.

And the Manchester City man is not likely to feature in the opener at all following the eye socket fracture he sustained against Chelsea in the Champions League final.

Those two, along with Romelu Lukaku, are Belgium’s most important players.

It is not ideal to be heading into the Euros not knowing if either of them will be in a position to influence games.

If there is ever a time to spring a surprise on them, it is now. Russia could do just that.

Battle of the elders

Russia’s squad is packed full of veterans, including 37-year-old former Chelsea defender Yuri Zhirkov, who is likely to start as the left wing-back in Cherchesov’s 3-4-3 system. 

Their starting backline, wing-backs included, had an average age of 31 in their recent draw with Poland.

Yet it is actually Belgium who have the older squad — only Sweden (29.2) have a higher average age than Martinez’s outfit (29.1).

Tags

European ChampionshipBelgiumRussia

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