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John Chapman’s Belgium v Russia preview: Lukaku and co. to start on a high

| 09.06.2021

Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Belgium throughout Euro 2020

The Belgian camp is confident following the recent performance against Croatia.

That game showed the squad is ready for the challenge and – in Romelu Lukaku’s words – it’s in a stronger position than it was at the last World Cup. Belgium and Russia met twice in the Euro 2020 qualifying round, with Roberto Martinez’s men winning both games (7-2 on aggregate).

Lukaku is the focal point of the attack, a leader and a player that gives 100%. In Kevin De Bruyne’s absence, Youri Tielemans is the team’s creative force. Both were impressive against Croatia.

Belgium’s strength lies in attack, and they will take the game to Russia. Even though senior players will be missing, they’ll want to put down a marker for the tournament.

Belgium generally play 3-4-3, with one defensive wingback and one more forward-thinking. Against Croatia, Martinez had the team switching to a back four when they lost possession; wingback Timothy Castagne played a vital role.

De Bruyne and Axel Witsel are not fit for action. Eden Hazard will not start the game, but even so, I expect Belgium to win comfortably, 3-1.

Check out the latest Euro 2020 odds.



John Chapman

John has been on the Belgian beat since 1999 when the Manchester Evening News wanted someone ‘local’ to report on Manchester United’s tie-up with Royal Antwerp.

From there he joined the excellent team as their ‘Man in Belgium’. This put him in the front seats as the Belgium national team embarked on its long and epic journey to the top of the FIFA rankings.

Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, he worked for World Soccer, the Telegraph and When Saturday Comes, repeating the exercise in 2018. In-between, he covered the 2016 Euros in France, reporting on Belgium’s games for ESPN as well as providing content for FourFourTwo, World Soccer and others.

He has often spoken on BBC radio programmes, Sky, CNN and others, and provided information to Russian, Swedish, Finnish and American media. Interview highlights have been with a teenage Vincent Kompany, Sir Alex Ferguson on the United-Antwerp link-up and Phillipe Albert to discuss his best Belgian XI of all-time.