Finland’s task of reaching the knockout stages of Euro 2020 will be made tougher by Roberto Martinez’s decision to field Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel when the two meet in their last Euro 2020 group game in St. Petersburg on Monday.
Despite his side topping the group with two wins from two games, the Belgian boss wants to gauge the form and fitness of the trio, dashing any hopes the Finns may have had of meeting a weakened side as they try to secure themselves a spot in the last 16.
“We are not here to go as far as we can, but rather to be as good as we can. And that means you have to win every game," Martinez told reporters.
The group is still wide open with Finland and Russia having three points and Denmark zero but the Danes, now without playmaker Christian Eriksen who suffered a cardiac arrest in their first game, could throw themselves back into the mix by beating the Russians in Copenhagen.
A win against Belgium would see Finland through, and a draw gives them a good chance of securing either second or third place in the group, with the best four of the third-placed teams in the six groups also set to advance.
Belgium will be missing Timothy Castagne, who suffered a facial fracture in the win against Russia and will take no further part in the tournament, but the rest of the squad has been given a clean bill of health.
The Finns will again seek to defend deep and hit on the break, and Monday’s clash would be a perfect time for Finnish striker Teemo Pukki, who scored 10 times in qualifying, to get his first goal at the Euros.
The size of the task can be seen at a glance in the world rankings – Belgium are ranked first, and a victory for the 54th-placed Finns would surely be one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.