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John Chapman’s Finland v Belgium preview: defensive concerns as Martinez prepares for knock-out stages

| 17.06.2021
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Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Belgium throughout Euro 2020

Belgium play Finland having already qualified for the knock-out stages. It’s not easy to predict how Roberto Martinez will approach this game, as the foremost issue on his mind will be his defence and how to shore it up.

Martinez has a paucity of solutions. Against Denmark, Lyon’s Jason Denayer was out of his depth and Benfica’s Jan Vertonghen’s age was a factor against the young Danes. When Martinez announced his 26-man squad for the finals, the Belgian media asked why there were so few defenders, especially as only one – Denayer – was under 30.

Martinez said that Tim Castagne and Leander Dendoncker could move into defence if needed. But with Castagne out of the tournament, the replacement cupboard looks somewhat threadbare. Thomas Vermaelen and Dedryk Boyota are also there, but they won’t add pace to the back line.

On the positive side, Martinez can rejoice that the three musketeers – Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel – are not just becoming operational, but, especially in KDB’s case, acting as game-changers.

Against Finland, Martinez could try Dendoncker in the back three, and give game time to Jeremy Doku and Leandro Trossard, but more attacking flair is not top of his priority list.

I am predicting a Belgium 2 Finland 1 scoreline.

Check out the latest Euro 2020 odds.

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Author

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 onefootball.com 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.