The final round of Euro 2020 group games continues on Monday, with Austria, Ukraine, Finland, Russia and Denmark all vying for a last-16 spot.
Belgium captain Eden Hazard has revealed he is still coming to terms with an injury-hit club season and admits he will struggle to last the whole game against Finland.
Hazard has made two substitute appearances so far at Euro 2020 and will start for Roberto Martinez’s side against the Finns in St Petersburg, but the Real Madrid winger conceded his right ankle might never be the same again after three fractures.
“I’m going to give it my all to be on the pitch as long as I can to the right level. It might be 50 minutes,” Hazard said.
“I don’t know if my ankle will ever be the same again. It definitely won’t be the same as 10 years ago when I was just starting out but that is just life.”
Finland head into their final group game daring to dream, with just a victory standing between them and a last-16 berth.
“I think we were maybe the only team that believed that we could be in this position,” head coach Markku Kanerva said. “We have dreamt about this. First, we dreamt about qualifying for the Euros, now we are dreaming about going through to the knockout stages.”
Ukraine will finish as runners-up behind Netherlands in Group C if they avoid defeat against Austria on Monday in Bucharest, having beaten North Macedonia last time out.
A win for Austria would see them progress with Netherlands and Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko knows it will be a tough game.
“Austria are a solid team with quality players,” he said. “They are a compact and athletic side, with a distinctive style. We have huge respect for them and are expecting a good match.
“Both teams will play to win, even though we know a point will be enough for us. But you won’t go far at this tournament with such a mentality; we will be playing only for a victory.”
Austria coach Franco Foda said: “We have it in our hands to reach the round of 16. Marko Arnautovic will be back for our ‘final’ against Ukraine. We will be ready.”
Netherlands head coach Frank De Boer hopes Memphis Depay’s move to Barcelona can inspire the forward to great things at Euro 2020.
Barca announced on Saturday the 27-year-old will join them on a two-year deal when his current contract with Lyon expires at the end of this month.
Depay has scored one goal in the Netherlands’ opening two Group C wins over Ukraine and Austria but has received criticism for his general level of play. De Boer admits sorting his club future out comes as a relief.
“I think Memphis is the first person to criticise his own game and say I can do better than I have shown so far,” he said.
“We need Memphis performing at the best level to reach as far as possible during this tournament. We are full of confidence and so is he. He knows what he wants, that is the reason he is a special player.”
North Macedonia can no longer qualify, having lost their opening two games, but Igor Angelovski wants his side to go out on a high.
“In the second half against Ukraine we were the real North Macedonia and showed that we deserved to be at the European Championship,” he said. “This is how we should play against the Dutch. We want to put on a real show and hopefully pick up our first points of the tournament.”
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov believes his side will be able to shrug off their unfamiliar surroundings to beat Denmark and book their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020.
Russia go into their final Group B game in Copenhagen sure in the knowledge a second consecutive victory will take them into the last 16 of the tournament.
With his side bolstered by their tight 1-0 win over Finland in their last game, Cherchesov shrugged off the potential difficulties of playing such a crucial game without any of their supporters.
Cherchesov told uefa.com: “This is going to be our first away game in two major tournaments, and without our fans. However, it’s not a problem. We haven’t used the word ‘problem’ for the past five years. It’s just a situation, and we know how to deal with it.”
Denmark‘s loss to Belgium means they need to beat Russia and hope the Belgians do them a favour by seeing off Finland.
The Danes’ campaign has been put into sharp perspective by Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest, but coach Kasper Hjulmand insisted they still harboured hope of progressing in the tournament.
“No matter what, we shall go out there and try win the match,” said Hjulmand. “It is going to be an unbelievably hard match against Russia. We shouldn’t force anything. We all know how hard it is to force things, and we should keep a level head and prevent mistakes.”
North Macedonia vs Netherlands: With Netherlands’ spot in the last 16 already assured, Frank de Boer has confirmed he will make just two changes to his side for their final group game against North Macedonia.
North Macedonia bid farewell to legendary striker Goran Pandev in what will be his 122nd and final cap of an illustrious international career.
Ukraine vs Austria: Andriy Shevchenko has a near fully-fit Ukraine squad to call upon, with only Denys Popov (calf) and Oleksandr Zubkov (muscle) the only injury concerns.
Austria striker Marko Arnautovic will return to the squad after his suspension against Netherlands. The former West Ham player was banned after being found guilty of insulting another player in his side’s opening win over North Macedonia.
Finland vs Belgium: With qualification already secured, Roberto Martinez is expected to hand more minutes to those on the periphery of Belgium’s campaign so far. Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel and Jeremy Doku could all start in St Petersburg. Thorgan Hazard is a booking away from a suspension and could be rested.
Finland are not expected to tinker with their line-up for a game that has must-win status. Right-back Nikolai Alho is available again after overcoming an ankle sprain, as is defender Jukka Raitala, who has shaken off a calf strain that forced him off against Denmark.
Russia vs Denmark: Russia are likely to stick with the team which beat Finland last time out, though they will be forced into a change down their right flank after Mario Fernandes sustained a heavy fall which will rule him out of the final group game.
Christian Eriksen remains Denmark’s only absentee after he suffered a cardiac arrest in their opening game against Finland.
Netherlands have booked their last-16 place as Group C winners after beating Austria 2-0 on Thursday, while North Macedonia have become the first side to be eliminated from the tournament after their 2-1 loss to Ukraine.
Whoever wins the final group game on Monday – Austria or Ukraine – will finish in second place, while the latter would secure the runners-up berth with a draw in that clash in Bucharest.
Belgium are through to the knockout stages after beating Denmark 2-1 and will top Group B with a draw in their final group game against Finland on Monday.
Finland and Russia are locked together on three points, while Denmark are bottom of the table having lost their opening two games.
All of which means Russia will be through with a win against Denmark, or with a draw if Finland fail to beat Belgium. Meanwhile, Finland will progress with a win, or a draw if Russia lose to Denmark.
Finally, Denmark can finish second if they beat Russia and Finland lose against Belgium, but it will all depend on the goals scored in these two matches.
The Netherlands have never lost against North Macedonia, winning two and drawing two of their four previous meetings.
In four previous meetings between North Macedonia and the Netherlands, North Macedonia haven’t led for a single minute in any game, and they are yet to go ahead in a match at the European Championships, scoring both of their goals when trailing.
Current North Macedonia striker Goran Pandev scored in his team’s first international fixture against the Netherlands, nearly 17 years ago – it was in a FIFA World Cup qualifier played in October 2004 (2-2).
Ukraine and Austria have faced each other twice previously, both teams recording a win each in friendlies. This is their first encounter at a major tournament. The two previous games between Ukraine and Austria produced eight goals, an average of four per match.
Ukraine ended a run of six consecutive defeats at the European Championships with a 2-1 win over North Macedonia last time out. They have not won consecutive matches at a major tournament since beating Saudi Arabia and Tunisia in the group stages of the 2006 World Cup, with current boss Andriy Shevchenko scoring in both of those wins.
Denmark have suffered defeat in each of their two group stage games at Euro 2020, losing 1-0 to Finland and 2-1 to Belgium. They have twice previously lost all three of their group games in a European Championships tournament, doing so at Euro 1988 and Euro 2000.
Russia are looking to record back-to-back wins at the European Championships for the first time since winning three in a row at Euro 2008, the first two wins of which were their final two group games.
Belgium have failed to beat Finland in their last seven meetings (D3 L4), their last victory over the Finns dates back to October 1968, in a World Cup qualifier (6-1).
Finland have mustered just two shots on target across their two games at Euro 2020 so far. Since 1980, no team has ever had fewer than four shots on target over their three group games at the European Championship.
Belgium have won their final group stage game in each of their last four major tournament appearances (Euros and World Cup), since losing 2-0 against Turkey in EURO 2000.
Also at Euro 2020…
The Mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, will write to UEFA to ask for permission for the Allianz Arena to be lit up in rainbow colours when Germany host Hungary in their final Group F match.
Munich’s city council had already called for the stadium to be lit in rainbow colours in protest against a law passed in Hungary which prohibits sharing any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment with minors. The law has been widely denounced by human rights groups.
UEFA has confirmed it is investigating potential discriminatory incidents that occurred during Hungary’s first two Euro 2020 games at the Puskas Arena.
Anti-discriminatory group Fare sent a report highlighting a homophobic banner in the stands during the defeat to Portugal in Budapest on Tuesday.
Monkey chants were also heard during Hungary’s draw with France on Saturday, with UEFA saying an ethics and disciplinary inspector has been appointed to conduct an investigation.
What are the Home Nations up to?
Phil Foden has told critics of Gareth Southgate they are clueless as he hailed the England manager as a “great coach”.
Southgate’s selection and tactics have been scrutinised in the opening two games of Euro 2020, especially following Friday’s disappointing goalless draw at home to Scotland.
Despite the underwhelming start to the finals leading to criticism of Southgate, Foden has no time for those questioning the England boss.
“He is a great coach – working with him every day you get to see what he is like,” the Manchester City winger told talkSPORT.
“He always has the players’ backs and I believe that his tactics are great so all these negative people don’t know what they are talking about because Gareth is a great coach.
“I believe in my team-mates. I see us every day in training and how much the creative players create chances. I just feel like it is going to come in the next game and we are going to create more so I don’t see it as a concern at all.”
Every member of Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad trained ahead of Tuesday’s must-win final group game against Croatia at Hampden Park.
Scotland have vowed they are not ready to let their Euro 2020 campaign finish on Tuesday after giving themselves a platform to make history with a steel goalless draw at Wembley.
Now they are determined to build on their improved display when they take on the World Cup runners-up in their bid to reach the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time.
Assistant coach Steven Reid said: “To produce a performance like that, hopefully it gives the lads a little bit more belief in their own ability, because sometimes they need to believe in themselves a little bit more.
“We have that feeling, a few of us spoke about it after the game, that we are not ready to go home yet. We want to go deeper into the tournament. As good as the performance was against a very good England side, ultimately it means nothing if we are heading home on Wednesday.
“We want to take the positives from the two games and hopefully get a goal or two as well. If we don’t get a goal, we are heading home.”