Friday, January 28

Eurocup: Belgium makes full and recovers pieces | Soccer Eurocup 2021

Eden Hazard, in the match against Finland.
Eden Hazard, in the match against Finland.LARS BARON / AP

Belgium completed the first phase of the Eurocup with a plenary session and with even better news than the results, because it is completing the arrival of several pieces that had come to the championship convalescent. To Finland he passed it as he did before to Russia and Denmark in a group in which no one coughed up one of those favorites that are expected and never quite arrive. It may do so in 2021. The Belgian triumph is a relief for Spain, which is worth the equalizer to enter the round of 16, as long as Poland does not beat Sweden, which is already classified. Better news is still for other teams. Four points give the pass, that’s why Switzerland did it while watching television. Three are also worth if the golaverage it is not negative.

Finland is waiting, as third in the group, but it looks like they are going home. It did not raise half measures: it went out to defend the initial tie folded in a line of five defenders, three midfielders who operated on the inside and two forwards who, in reality, was an advanced defense. The plan was to run, chase, and bail. If a light appeared on the road leading to Courtois’s goal, it had to be followed, but without bragging.

The game came to Belgium with qualification in his pocket. And the ensuing calm took the edge off it. The selector Roberto Martínez looked for him in the line-up, in which he mixed meritorious and consecrated. For Hazard, De Bruyne or Witsel, the first title so far this tournament came, so the evening invited them to complete their soft landing in the competition after leaving behind various ailments.

With those bases in place, the party advanced in a single direction, with a certain laziness and a glimmer of De Bruyne and Lukaku. Hazard was industrious, reaching for the ball, falling from the left into inside positions to combine short, but he also came out on the run. He worked more hard than lucid in the search for sensations. Like all his companions, he ran into a spider web woven by rough but sturdy defenders. The three Finnish centrals play in the bottom of the Swedish league, another in an unknown Cypriot team and the third in Helsinki. Nobody asks them for a good foot to get the ball played. Just subtract, which is not little when you have to deal with Lukaku.

The Nordic survival exercise advanced between a back sunk in front of its goalkeeper, who always supported the team when in doubt. Lukas Hradecky is a goal with experience in the Bundesliga, in Eintracht and now in Leverkusen. He was always there when his team needed him, for example in a shot full of poison with which Doku sniffed the goal shortly before the break or in another from Hazard after the break.

That break came with good news for Finland because Denmark surpassed Russia and the four points then gave the classification without waiting, in second place. A quarter of an hour after the restart came news of another Danish and the crowd, mostly Finnish, exploded in jubilation. Sometimes your team doesn’t have to go past midfield to celebrate.

The VAR lines

But Finland came out and almost got a cold. Belgium responded to an episodic offensive excursion, accustomed to the pressures found a large estate, De Bruyne connected with Lukaku and the goal arrived, celebrated with the eyes of Tyrians and Trojans in the VAR. There between magnifying glasses and lines its cancellation was delineated. The next thing the Nordic team did was remove a forward, Pohjanpalo, from the field and add one more midfielder to the crowd. Then happened one of those fatalities that make football indecipherable. After stopping the unstoppable, just when his team had strengthened to attack the final stretch of the game with more legs and more defensive character, Hradecky scored an own goal. Vermaelen headed in, the ball crashed into the crossbar and the rebound ran into the goalkeeper’s hand, who inadvertently introduced the ball.

That was the end. Finland’s only plan for the party was to contain. There was no response, and as soon as it opened again he was even more vulnerable. Lukaku scored in a play that he resolved like a futsal pivot and the Belgians took a game in which he had no other concern than to tear down a wall.

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