A man who rose from poverty to a million-star. A team that hopes to repeat a sensation. An absolute newcomer to the climate-friendly approach. Group B of the European Football Championship has a clear favorite – who finally wants to crown itself.
On June 11, 2021, the EM 2020 starts with a one-year delay. The tournament, which will be held across Europe, will be played with 24 teams for the first time. From a total of six groups (A to F), up to three countries can qualify for the round of 16. Little is clear before this European Championship, but one thing is certain: The final round with the two semi-finals and the final will be played from July 6, 2021 at London’s Wembley Stadium. Before that there is a wild ride for some nations with venues between Seville and Baku. From now on we will look at a group every day. Today on group B. And there a balaclava can outdo all of them.
Here’s a player to watch out for:
Everyone knows him, all opponents fear him: Belgium’s striker Romelu Lukaku. 1.91 meters tall, weighs 93 kilograms, 30 goals and 10 assists in 44 competitive games last season. Champion with Inter Milan and Italy’s Player of the Season, market value 100 million euros, transfer fees of more than 212 million euros have already been paid for him. Values that would have been completely utopian for him in the past. Lukaku grew up in poverty, watching his mother stretch milk with water, as he recalls on “The Players Tribune”. And today he takes on Zlatan Ibrahimovic without any problems. The extroverted Swede in the service of city rivals AC Milan. Their arguments and nicknames on and off the pitch cause turmoil again and again.
Defenders regularly despair of this 28-year-old who has made it from the bottom to the top. National and international. He scored 60 goals in 93 international matches for the “Red Devils”. He not only has the scorer gene, but also an eye for his teammates, is a perfect fit. He is the offensive leader of the world’s number one, the golden generation of Belgium. Third place went to Lukaku and Co. at the 2018 World Cup, but the team’s status should finally be gilded. For reasons of age, there will probably only be the European Championship or the upcoming World Cup. That’s one of the team’s goals, but his personal one goes beyond that: “I wanted to be the best footballer in Belgian history. Not good. Not great. The best.” He probably has maximum competition in the current team. And now, of all times, midfield star Kevin de Bruyne is out at least for the start of the European Championship due to facial injuries from the Champions League final. The way for Lukaku is clear.
You should definitely know:
For the Finns, it started off very calmly. Because of the big fanfare at the absolute premiere! The Northern Europeans are participating in a tournament for the first time, never before has a men’s team qualified for a European or World Cup. How did you do that? “No magic tricks,” described captain Tim Sparv in “11Freunde” magazine, “just eleven selfless, hard-working players who were tired of the whole nation joking about them.” Was that why there were timpani and trumpets? No, at most tooing and rattling. Because with the train, the team of coach Markku Kanerva set out in the direction of St. Petersburg, where the Finnish base camp for the European Championship is set up. Climate-friendly, modern, but the route only takes four hours.
So the team doesn’t need a lot of fanfare, it’s enough that they are really the focus of the sport, after all, cross-country skiing or ice hockey are otherwise dominant. Enthusiastic Finns are now applauding the national soccer team – it’s good that they play in the summer anyway. With the enthusiasts, the names are sure to be right. In this country it looks different. Sure, Lukas Hradecky, Bayer Leverkusen’s strong goalkeeper. Sure, Teemu Pukki, who came to FC Schalke 04 at the age of 21 in 2011 and won the hearts of the fans there, but not those of the coach. He is now 31 years old, left a lot of head hair, got a lot of beard and has been active at Norwich City since 2018. Sure, Joel Pohjampalo, the striker from 1. FC Union Berlin. Inclined Augsburg fans are certainly still thinking of their Fredrik Jensen. Well, that makes one goalkeeper, one midfielder and two strikers – that doesn’t make a team. And so it is clear that the old platitude is right again: The star is the team around captain Tim Sparv from the Greek first division club AE Larisa.
The team only convinces collectively, with unity and the fact that coach Kanerva has been preaching the same tactics and discipline since 2016. A man who is a trained teacher who taught as a primary school teacher before his coaching job. A pedant with a love of detail, but one who also managed to build trust in his players. But qualifying for the European Championship will probably remain his greatest success for the time being. Finland has little chance of advancing in Group B.
Don’t miss this game:
Wednesday, June 16, 3 p.m. You should keep this date free. At least if you have a heart for outsiders. Finland will face Russia on matchday two. And the two will presumably decide between themselves who will be last in the group. A position that nobody wants. Which will probably be given to the Finns – but who certainly want to defend themselves with their team spirit. That could be easiest for them against the Russians. They were in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2018, had Croatia on the verge of defeat and had previously defeated Spain in the second round. But that was in my own country, with a different motivation. Coach Stansilaw Tschertschessow is still the same, but his players are mostly employed in the Russian league and therefore lack international class. Because the four best thirds in the group also advance, the game could be a preliminary decision in group B.
Here is played:
1512.9 kilometers. This route generates Google Maps for the route between St. Petersburg and Copenhagen. The two places where Group B plays. While Denmark is allowed to stay at home, Belgium is going from the first game in St. Petersburg to the second game in Copenhagen and back to St. Petersburg. So the game is played in two completely different stages. The time-honored car park, which opened in 1911 and reopened in 1992 after the renovation, has 38,065 seats. And the new Gazprom Arena, which was only inaugurated in 2017 ahead of the World Cup in Russia. For which the old Kirov Stadium was demolished in 2006. In which almost twice as many spectators fit as in Copenhagen.
While only one European Championship round of 16 will be played in Copenhagen, the arena in Russia is well used: In addition to Group B, Group E will also be guests, and there will also be a quarter-finals.
Now it is your turn! Who will win the group?