Euro 2020, Belgium vs Russia: Top 5 players to watch out for in BEL vs RUS: Belgium kick-off their quest for major silverware on Sunday (IST), when they lock horns with Russia in Group B at Euro 2020. The Red Devils are considered favourites, thanks to their golden generation of players aiming to replicate their sparkling form at club level to the international stage.
Euro 2020, Turkey vs Italy: Russia, who reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup at home, will be keen to try and leave a mark at the Euros this summer. Coincidentally, Stanislav Cherchesov’s men were drawn alongside Belgium in the qualifiers as well and finished second in Group I.
The top-ranked nation in the world have not arrived at the competition by mere luck, and having won all 10 of their games in qualifying by scoring the most goals (40) as well as conceding the joint-fewest (3), Belgium could take some stopping.
As both teams fine-tune their line-ups for their opening fixture of the tournament, we profile the top 5 players to watch out for during the game:
Belgium vs Russia: Top 5 players to watch out for in BEL vs RUS:
Euro 2020, Belgium vs Russia: Key Player 1
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Owing to the fitness concerns surrounding Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, Lukaku is expected to shoulder a huge responsibility for Belgium. The Inter marksman netted the only goal during a hard-fought friendly win over Croatia in the build-up to the Euros.
Nobody has scored more goals for Belgium thank Lukaku (60) either, so it is safe to say Martinez will be pinning plenty of hopes on him to deliver the goods starting Sunday at St Petersburg. The 28-year-old will also be keen to try and win the Golden Boot after missing out to Harry Kane at the 2018 World Cup. Lukaku, who was Belgium’s top-scorer (7) in the qualifiers, netted 24 goals to help Inter lift the Serie A title last season.
Euro 2020, Belgium vs Russia: Key Player 2
Artem Dzyuba (Russia)
The Russia captain played a starring role during their qualification to the Euros. Dzyuba was top-scorer (9) in Group I ahead of Lukaku and is fresh off the back of a successful domestic season in Russia with Zenit St Petersburg.
In addition to finding the back of the net on 20 occasions and being the top-scorer of the Russian Premier League, Dzyuba also lifted the league title in style with Zenit. The 6ft 6in striker is just a solitary goal away from becoming Russia’s joint-highest goal-scorer alongside Aleksandr Kerzhakov (30) and will be hoping to go one better at the tournament this term.
Euro 2020, Belgium vs Russia: Key Player 3
Youri Tielemans (Belgium)
The 24-year-old has the arduous task of filling a Kevin De Bruyne-sized gap in midfield for Belgium. Fortunately for Martinez, Tielemans is almost woven out of the same fabric as the Manchester City talisman.
During the friendly win over Croatia, Tielemans displayed his prowess in getting on the ball and making things happen. The Leicester City man is conditioned to pick out passes and has lately improved his goal returns too. In addition to scoring from distance to help Leicester lift the FA Cup last season, Tielemans also scored 6 goals in the Premier League. As long as he pulls the strings from midfield with good effect, Belgium will be powered by good legs.
Euro 2020, Belgium vs Russia: Key Player 4
Aleksandr Golovin (Russia)
Three years ago, Golovin was the toast of the nation. The poster boy of Russia football during their remarkable display on home soil at the 2018 World Cup. Some of the biggest clubs in Europe took notice of the then 22-year-old and wanted to touch base with his entourage to try and fork out a deal.
Surprisingly, Golovin decided to move to Monaco in Ligue 1. Despite the hype surrounding his move away from Russia, the midfielder endured a difficult time with recurring injuries and lack of form. However, Golovin has shown signs of promise recently and directly contributed to 14 goals in 21 appearances in the league for Monaco last season. Russia will play their first two games at the Euros on home soil, can Golovin wind the clock back? It will be worth the watch if he does.
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Euro 2020, Belgium vs Russia: Key Player 5
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Belgium are sweating on the availability of Eden Hazard, who still only getting back to prime shape after an injury. The Real Madrid winger has banks of quality as the world already knows, it is just a matter of getting his confidence back at the moment.
Hazard was at the peak of his powers during the 2018 World Cup and would’ve been bitterly disappointed at finishing third with Belgium. Since the move away from Chelsea, his career has stagnated as well. There is plenty to prove for him ahead of the Euros and the meeting with Russia could be the ideal occasion. However, it remains to be seen if he makes the line-up on Sunday.