3 things we learned from Belgium v. Russia
It was all too easy to predict that Romelu Lukaku would steal the show as Belgium kicked off its EURO 2020 quest as one of a handful of favorites to win the tournament, but that’s exactly what happened in his side’s 3-0 victory at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on Saturday.
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Lukaku scored twice to go with a single tally from Thomas Meunier, as Belgium joined Finland as winners on the opening day of play in Group B.
Three things we learned: Belgium - Russia
1. Belgium start fast, furiously: With lofty expectations, perhaps even as the favorites, placed upon them, Belgium required nothing short of a roaring start to serve as a launching pad for a deep run at EURO 2020. Two goals inside the opening 35 minutes went a long way toward putting Roberto Martinez’s side at ease, thus allowing them to play their own game from a position of power. As good as the Red Devils were on Saturday, there’s still another level (or two) for them to reach…
2. … when De Bruyne returns: Speaking of ascending higher and higher, the world’s best playmaker is expected to join the squad in the coming days.
3. Tragic start on home soil for Russia: As good as Belgium looked, Russia looked that bad — maybe worse — as they failed to show up on home soil. Playing down two goals for an hour, Russia managed all of three attempted shots from the 14th minute onward.
Man of the Match: Romelu Lukaku - This man is a problem for opposing defense, and we’ve not seen the last of his goals at EURO 2020. Speaking after the game, Lukaku dedicated his performance to Inter Milan teammate Christian Eriksen.
Lukaku fired Belgium ahead in the 10th minute, thanks to one of the many complexities of the offside rule. When Dries Mertens floated a ball over the top, Lukaku was a full body’s width offside, yet the goal still stood after his left-footed finish beat Anton Shunin — because when Andrey Semenov botched his clearance attempt, he made a deliberate play on the ball.
Lukaku shouted into the field-side camera, “Chris, Chris, I love you,” directed toward Eriksen, who earlier on Saturday collapsed on the field during Denmark - Finland. Eriksen was taken to the hospital where he is currently stable and responsive.
Meunier came on as a concussion-forced substitute in the 27th minute, after Timothy Castagne was involved in a collision of heads which forced him off. Seven minutes later, Meunier was all by himself when the rebound from Thorgan Hazard’s shot was spilled by Shunin for an easy put-back.
Two minutes from full-time, it was Lukaku who again bot behind the Russian defense and fired past Shunin to make it 3-0 and loudly announce his own arrival at EURO 2020.