Belgium got their Euro 2020 campaign off to a bright start as their golden generation chase European glory.
They ran out 3-0 victors over Russia in St Petersburg after being gifted two goals by the hosts. The Red Devils had some bright spells and created some good chances but it was their opponents who gifted them their victory, with Romelu Lukaku scoring twice and Thomas Meunier also on the scoresheet.
Roberto Martinez’s side did not have to play with much intensity that they have been known for in recent years due to the respect Russia were showing them. The game appeared to be more of a training exercise for Belgium as Russia looked like the shadow of the side that impressed on home turf in the World Cup three years ago.
Belgium’s midfield were able to dictate the game with Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans and the anchoring midfielder Leander Dendoncker of Wolverhampton Wanderers. At any point Russia tried to break through the press, the two midfielders were able to clean up and get the Red Devils going on the counter-attack themselves.
Belgium were well-organised and their structure really frustrated Russia who could not make the most of possession. Their best chances were handed to them by their opponents but the best teams are always the ones who score in those critical moments.
Without the midfield talisman Kevin De Bruyne, questions were asked how this side would perform without their key cog in midfield and they have shown that they can still get the job done, so you can only imagine the intensity of their play when he returns.
Considering the turbulent form winger Eden Hazard has had since his Chelsea departure, his place in Martinez’s side has been filled by Yannick Carrasco, who dazzled against Russia on the left. It just highlights the squad depth Belgium have and the level of players they can call on to impact and change games.
As it has been known for a while, Lukaku has been a breath of fresh air since his departure from Manchester United and the player is back to his best. His quick reaction to slotting in Belgium’s opening goal after sloppy defending from Russia gave him one of the best chances of his career – and of course he made them pay.
Tipped as one of the favourites for the Golden Boot, Lukaku is already off the mark at Euro 2020 and he will be eager for the return of provider De Bruyne. Having already managed a brace without the midfield maestro, he will be an even bigger threat when the Manchester City star is back in the side.
Even though Russia did not provide them with much of a challenge, Belgium were so composed on the ball and knew how to build their way up the pitch. They haven't had to play at a high intensity which they are used to or to a similar level to how Italy played against Turkey but they still ran out convincing winners and Belgium’s golden generation have already staked their claim on the Euros title.