Saint Petersburg (AFP)
With a double from Romelu Lukaku, Belgium succeeded in its entry into contention in the Euro, with a victory full of control against Russia (3-0), Saturday in Saint Petersburg, at the height of its ambitions for the title.
On the banks of the Neva, Roberto Martinez's men were frozen in a context that was not favorable to them.
Less than three hours before the meeting, the discomfort in the middle of the match of the Danish Christian Eriksen, in Copenhagen, caused a huge shock wave in the football community, felt even in the Belgian locker room.
Forward Lukaku is his teammate at Inter Milan, while defenders Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have rubbed shoulders with him at Tottenham ...
Deprived of their star Kevin De Bruyne, without Eden Hazard at kickoff, the Belgians also faced a hostile stadium, which whistled them when they put one knee to the ground in protest against discrimination, before the kickoff sending.
However, in spite of the contrary winds, on the ground, all went in the direction of Belgium, of a flawless solidity.
As a symbol, Lukaku was the hero of the evening, with a double.
He opened the scoring (10th), following a huge error by defender Andrei Semenov, on the first Belgian opportunity of the match.
- For Eriksen -
The Antwerp resident dedicated his achievement to Eriksen, with a noisy "I love you" shouted at the cameras, echoing the enormous mobilization of support for the Dane, who was hospitalized in the evening in a stable state.
At the end of the match, he sealed the 3-0 (89th) on his second attempt of the match, launched by Thomas Meunier.
"Big Rom" is 62 goals in 93 caps.
"I'm really happy with the victory, but it was very hard for me to play because all my thoughts were with Christian Eriksen," said Inter Milan center-forward.
In the meantime, Meunier made the break (34th) by taking advantage of a new Russian clumsiness, this time goalkeeper Anton Shunin punching the center of Thorgan Hazard in the feet of the former Parisian, strangely alone.
The right-back had entered a few minutes earlier (27th), after the injury of Timothy Castagne, victim of a head-to-head shock with Daler Kuzyaev.
Severely affected, the defender of Leicester will miss the rest of the Euro.
"The Castagne tournament is over," Roberto Martinez confirmed to RTBF.
After Italy, dominating against Turkey (3-0) Friday in Rome, here is a second favorite holds its place.
Certainly, the Devils did not have to force their talent against a disappointing Russian team, rarely dangerous with the ball.
Only Mario Fernandes (2nd) and Artem Dzyuba (38th), from the head, gave shivers to the 26,264 spectators of the enclosure, limited to a gauge of 50%.
After the first day of group B, all the lights are green for Belgium, which will play Thursday in Copenhagen, against Denmark, to qualify for the knockout stages.
- Hazard came into play -
The expected return to the group of De Bruyne (facial fractures) and Axel Witsel (Achilles tendon) suggests the rise of a team that does not hide its ambition for the title.
One of the last questions concerns the form of Real Madrid star midfielder Eden Hazard.
While he only played ten minutes during the preparation, the N.10 entered the 70th place in place of Dries Mertens.
“Today, I had a good feeling. The legs were OK, it feels good. I will continue training and matches. Little by little, I will regain my confidence with the ball, that's what makes me feel better. 'missed,' Hazard said.
His desire to make a difference with each of his ball catches recalled all the talent of the former Lille, who finished the meeting with the captain's armband, following the exit of Vertonghen.
Like his team, if he still needs time to regain his best level, at least he has gained the luxury of continuing to work in serenity.
Before going to St. Petersburg, it was not won.
© 2021 AFP