John Chapman’s Finland v Belgium preview: defensive concerns as Martinez prepares for knock-out stages
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Belgium throughout Euro 2020
Belgium play Finland having already qualified for the knock-out stages. It’s not easy to predict how Roberto Martinez will approach this game, as the foremost issue on his mind will be his defence and how to shore it up.
Martinez has a paucity of solutions. Against Denmark, Lyon’s Jason Denayer was out of his depth and Benfica’s Jan Vertonghen’s age was a factor against the young Danes. When Martinez announced his 26-man squad for the finals, the Belgian media asked why there were so few defenders, especially as only one – Denayer – was under 30.
Martinez said that Tim Castagne and Leander Dendoncker could move into defence if needed. But with Castagne out of the tournament, the replacement cupboard looks somewhat threadbare. Thomas Vermaelen and Dedryk Boyota are also there, but they won’t add pace to the back line.
On the positive side, Martinez can rejoice that the three musketeers – Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel – are not just becoming operational, but, especially in KDB’s case, acting as game-changers.
Against Finland, Martinez could try Dendoncker in the back three, and give game time to Jeremy Doku and Leandro Trossard, but more attacking flair is not top of his priority list.
I am predicting a Belgium 2 Finland 1 scoreline.