Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer
Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium during the UEFA Nations league match between Belgium v England at the King Baudouin Stadium on November 15, 2020 - GETTY IMAGES

Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium during the UEFA Nations league match between Belgium v England at the King Baudouin Stadium on November 15, 2020 – GETTY IMAGES

Roberto Martinez has backed Belgium to deal with heightened expectation as they head into the Euro 2020 finals ranked as the best team in the world.

The Belgians finished third at the World Cup in Russia in 2018 and will return to face the hosts of that tournament in St Petersburg on Saturday evening among the favourites to lift the trophy and sitting at the top of the Fifa’s rankings.

Asked if his players could handle that expectation, Martinez said: “It’s not just the last tournament, the last three years when the team reaches the level of continuity and that consistency that is shown in the world rankings, I’m sure there is more expectation and there are more neutral fans who follow the team.

“But that doesn’t change anything for us. I don’t think this team will suffer because of the expectation. I feel that we’ve got enough experience to cope with the expectation.”

Belgium will launch their bid for glory without Kevin De Bruyne and Axel Witsel, who both remained behind at their training base in Tubize as they continue to make good progress in their respective recoveries from injury.

De Bruyne only linked up with the squad on Monday after having a minor operation following the injuries sustained during City’s loss to Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29.

Belgium’s second game in Group B is against Denmark in Copenhagen on Thursday, when Martinez expects De Bruyne to play a part.

“The next two days will be really important, just to get him back to really being able to move freely and start getting the exercise needed before he can come to the group,” Martinez said of De Bruyne, who was recently voted as the Premier League’s player of the season for the second straight year.

There will be little Belgium and Russia do not know about each other having finished first and second in Group I in qualification with the Belgians enjoying a perfect record and the Russians winning eight of their 10 games, but losing both home and away to Martinez’s side.

Belgium won 3-1 in Brussels and 4-1 in St Petersburg.

Belgium Euro 2020 squad

Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Strasbroug)

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe), Jan Vertonghen (Benfica), Timothy Castagne (Leicester), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund)

Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Dennis Praet (Leicester), Youri Tielemans (Leicester), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Nacer Chadli (Istanbul Basaksehir), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Crystal Palace), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan), Jeremy Doku (Rennes), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Leandro Trossard (Brighton)

Read more: Euro 2021 teams, player lists and rankings of all 24 countries

Belgium Euro 2020 fixtures

  • Belgium vs Russia, Saturday June 12 – 8pm

  • Denmark vs Belgium, Thursday June 17 – 5pm

  • Finland vs Belgium, Monday June 21 – 8pm

See the full Euro 2020 TV schedule list for the tournament.