That’s it for tonight’s blog. Thanks for your company and emails on a surreal, distressing but ultimately uplifting day. Goodnight.
Full time: Belgium 3-0 Russia
Peep peep! A perfect start for Belgium, who were in second gear throughout yet still hammered Russia. The voracious Romelu Lukaku scored twice, with the substitute Thomas Meunier also on the scoresheet. Meunier’s involvement was the only real downside for Belgium: he came on in the first half after a nasty eye injury to Timothy Castagne.
90+2 min “Hello Rob,” writes Kaspar Larsen. “Just to inject, at the post-match press conference, Hjulmand, the Danish coach, confirmed that the teams had been given two options by UEFA: Either resume play tonight or at noon tomorrow. Nothing later was doable since Finland has their next game on the 16th. Hjulmand confirmed that his players all agreed that tomorrow would have been untenable, as they wouldn’t have been able to sleep tonight anyway, and thus in no fit state to play so early tomorrow.”
90+1 min Two minutes of added time. This has been a stroll for Belgium.
Meunier, who has had a fine game since coming on in the first half, made the goal. He moseyed infield, realised nobody was going to challenge him and kept going. Then he guided a good ball through to Lukaku, who outpaced Semonov and drove a low right-foot shot past Shunin at the near post. Excellently taken.
GOAL! Belgium 3-0 Russia (Lukaku 88)
Romelu Lukaku gets his second!
87 min Russia’s next game is against Finland on Wednesday. Belgium meet Denmark the following day.
84 min “That was a good point by Ben Stanley about the Finnish players,” says Kári Tulinius. “Joel Pohjanpalo was interviewed on Finnish TV after the match, and he didn’t have the expected demeanour of someone who’d scored his country’s first ever goal at a major tournament. He looked like someone who’d seen a fellow human being nearly die right in front of him.”
82 min Eden Hazard loses Mukhin with a scintillating turn on the halfway line. Nothing comes of it but it was a pleasant reminder of his delicious balance and skill.
81 min Nothing to report in the football, with Belgium happily passing the clock down. That nasty injury to Castagne aside, this really has been the perfect tune-up for them.
79 min “Whether or not they should have played I think it ultimately does come down to the players’ decision,” says Joshua Reynolds. “I agree that they might regret making the decision and that it was certainly not a good environment for making one, but ultimately they did want to play. It’s hard without a guideline to say in the moment ‘you don’t know what is best. We do.’. Maybe there should be a rule put into place where if a player has this kind of health event happen then the match is abandoned and cannot be played until at least 24 hours after. I have no idea what the logistics of that would be, however.”
Yes, well put. That’s why I have sympathy with the Danish players, who went through a kaleidoscope of emotions from the moment Eriksen collapsed. They did what they thought was right, and I wouldn’t criticise them for that.
77 min Two more changes for Belgium: Thomas Vermaelen and Dennis Praet replaces Jan Vertonghen and Yannick Carrasco.
76 min The second half has been a non-event. The substitute Miranchuk tries to enliven proceedings with a strong run into the area, only for Boyata to calmly dispossess him. Boyata has been really good tonight.
74 min “As others have said, it would always have been impossible for the Danish players to perform at their usual level under those circumstances,” writes Alasdair Murray. “It reminded me of that England v France friendly played a few days after a terrorist attack in Paris, where the minds of the French players were clearly not on the game at all. Additionally, though it’s far from the most important thing here - it seems a shame that Finland’s first win at a major tournament will now always have an asterisk next to it. Best wishes to Christian Eriksen.”
Though I agree with you, it’s interesting that Arsenal-Wolves continued last season after Raul Jimenez fractured his skull, and Wolves went on to win. I’m trying to work out what the differences are – the incidents were different but equally serious (I was doing the liveblog and I thought Jimenez had died).
72 min Eden Hazard replaces Dries Mertens. It would be great to see him return to form in this tournament; the world is a better place when Hazard is playing well.
71 min Eden Hazard is getting ready to come on.
69 min Nothing much is happening. Russia have been better in the second half, but Belgium have still kept them at arm’s length.
65 min “Evening Rob,” says Simon McMahon. “Looking ahead, I really think Scotland could spring a surprise, and maybe even win the tournament. And I’m not just saying that because I picked them in the work sweepie.”
I found out today that I’ll be liveblogging the England/Scotland game next Friday. Please email us, whatever state you’re in.
63 min Russia make their final substitutions: Maksim Mukhin and Aleksei Miranchuk replace Cheryshev, who was one of the first-half substitutes, and Zobnin.
61 min If Russia get one it could become interesting, because Belgium have been coasting for most of the second half. It’s human nature, I suppose: we all thought it was over at half-time so they probably did too, at least subconsciously.
59 min “Emotional trauma is no less trauma for being emotional,” says Ben Stanley. “In rugby you see players who get concussed and want to carry on. The decision is taken out of their hands, and rightly so. The Denmark players were always going to do what Eriksen asked of them, and that’s totally understandable, but in such circumstances it shouldn’t be a decision for them to make. It’s also worth thinking about the Finnish players - they could hardly refuse on hearing of Eriksen’s request, but they will also have been emotionally affected by seeing someone nearly die on the pitch in front of them. Someone needs to be empowered to say ‘no, this isn’t going to happen’.”
Things have at least improved since, for example, the Burnden Park tragedy of 1946.
58 min Dzyuba breaks forward dangerously, and Boyata does really well to hold him up on the edge of the area. This is a decent spell for Russia.
55 min “I don’t agree they were wrong to restart the game,” says Ric Arthur. “Eriksen texted his teammates asking them to finish the game, and after consulting with the Finland players, they all agreed to play. What benefit would there have been to stew on it for another day, and have the whole crowd come back to witness another half?”
Well, I doubt Denmark would have lost for a start. To what extent that is important is another matter. I can see both sides, but I think the Denmark players will eventually regret playing, and not only because they lost. We all have experience of muddled thinking when we are suffering from shock or grief, and we usually end up regretting our lack of clarity.
54 min Dzyuba has a rising shot saved comfortably by Courtois, though it wouldn’t have counted as Dendoncker was nobbled by Cheryshev in the build up.
52 min Russia are huffing and puffing to no great effect. Their GPS trackers probably suggest otherwise, but from afar this looks like an easy night’s work for Belgium.
50 min First Kevin De Bruyne, now Timothy Castagne may have fractured an eye socket. His eye was already swollen and bruised by the time he left the field.
48 min Russia would probably be happy with damage limitation in the second half. It’s hard to be sure at this stage, but a win and a draw against Finland and Denmark would probably be enough to put them through to the knockout stage. Anything tonight would be a bonus.
46 min Peep peep! Belgium begin the second half. Russia win the ball straight away and Zobnin shoots well wide from long range.
Russia have made a half-time substitution: Igor Diveev is on for Dmitri Barinov.
“No matter what the circumstances of the Denmark players being asked to resume the game, it should have been abandoned & replayed tomorrow at the earliest,” says Mike Nagle. “When you have witnessed a teammate being given CPR on the pitch there is no way you can be in the right frame of mind to finish the game shortly afterwards. Uefa need to get the message that physical & mental health comes first.”
I think you’re right. It would be really interesting to know who first suggested the match should be completed today. If it was Eriksen, as some people have written, I can understand why it happened, even if in hindsight it was the wrong decision.
Half time: Belgium 2-0 Russia
Peep peep! Belgium are cruising to victory in St Petersburg. The inevitable Romelu Lukaku put them ahead with his 61st goal for Belgium, and then the substitute Thomas Meunier added a second after a wicked cross from Thorgan Hazard. Russia had a decent spell at 1-0 but for the most part it has been a stroll for Belgium, the perfect way to ease themselves into the tournament.
45+3 min Carrasco almost makes it 3-0, lifting a shot over the bar after a dizzying run infield from the left. Belgium are a class apart.
43 min Another Russia change: Zhirkov can’t continue, so he is replaced by Vyacheslav Karavaev.
41 min: No penalty
41 min It’s still being checked, but it shouldn’t be a penalty - replays show that Meunier ran into Zhirkov.
40 min Meunier picks up a loose ball, moves into the area and goes over under challenge from Zhirkov. There was no real appeal for a penalty, though it was a risky challenge and it’s being checked by VAR.
38 min A free-kick is headed back across goal by Dzyuba, six yards out, and the ball bounces to safety. I’m not sure why he didn’t head at goal, though I think he was offside anyway.
38 min “There are no right answers in this situation,” says Mary Waltz. “This is not a critique. But the Finland goal was a save Schmeichel makes in his sleep. The Hjobjerg penalty effort was of a man who didn’t want to be on the spot. The Danes just suffered major trauma. The result could have just as well happened tomorrow. It’s just sad.”
It’s really hard to judge because we don’t know the exact circumstances by which the game was resumed. If Eriksen asked them to finish the match, they were never going to say no. It’s hard to say as I haven’t been watching the game, but it does sound like their minds were elsewhere.
37 min Zhirkov is struggling. He slipped as he cleared the ball and started feeling his knee, but it looks like he’s okay to continue.
35 min It was a delicious cross from Hazard. I wouldn’t be too harsh on Shunin, as I think he lost sight of the ball because of a posse of bodies at the near post.
Hazard’s dipping, inswinging cross from the left was spilled by Shunin, who I think was unsighted, and Meunier gobbled up the rebound from 10 yards.
GOAL! Belgium 2-0 Russia (Meunier 34)
The substitute Thomas Meunier makes it two.
31 min Barinov is a bit late on Mertens, who stamps on Barinov’s personal space as he lands. I’m fairly sure it was an accident. The referee and VAR weren’t interested.
31 min “Whatever the law states, that goal was ridiculous,” says Alex Dann. “The defender wouldn’t have had to make a clearance, under pressure, if Lukaku had not been standing (offside)behind him.”
Yep, I agree. I thought it would be overturned by VAR.
30 min: Russia substitution Kuzyaev has been replaced by the popular Denis Cheryshev.
29 min Alderweireld thrikes over the bar from 25 yards. It was beautifully struck but a few yards too high.
28 min Kuzyaev is having his head bandaged on the touchline. He wants to continue but the decision might be taken out of his hands.
27 min: Belgium substitution Castagne, holding an icepack to his already bruised right eye, is replaced by Thomas Meunier.
25 min A clash of heads between Castagne and Kuzyaev leads to a break in play while they receive treatment. Castagne looks very groggy and might not be able to continue.
23 min Castagne is very lucky not to be booked for a cynical foul on Kuzyaev.
22 min: Good save from Shunin! A cross from the left ricochets into the path of Hazard, who smacks the bouncing ball towards goal from the left edge of the area. Shunin charges out to make a terrific block.
18 min Lukaku storms into the area and is about to shoot when the stretching Dzhikiya makes a vital tackle. Lukaku collects the loose ball near the byline, gets his head up and picks out the late arriving Dendoncker on the edge of the area. He smashes a first-time shot over the bar.
16 min Russia are playing some purposeful stuff. Fernandes’s cross is controlled with his left shoulder by Dzyuba, who then lays it off to Ozdoyev on the edge of the D. He drags a low shot well wide.
15 min I’m not sure I like that offside rule, because Lukaku ultimately benefitted from being offside, but there you go. It was not dissimilar to that Tyrone Mings incident at Manchester City last season.
14 min A half chance for Russia. Golovin’s excellent corner finds Fernandes, who does well to get above the Belgian defence but heads straight at Courtois.
Mertens’ routine cross from the right somehow went through the legs of Semonov, a slapstick endeavour on his part, and dribbled through to Lukaku. He was 12 yards out and dragged an instant shot on the turn past Shunin. Lukaku was in an offside position when the cross came in, but Semonov’s touch meant it was a new phase of play and he was thus onside. He celebrated his goal by saying “Chris, Chris, I love you” to the camera. Lukaku plays with Christian Eriksen at Internazionale.
GOAL! Belgium 1-0 Russia (Lukaku 10)
It took the big man only 10 minutes!
8 min “You know the way UEFA fine clubs when their fans boo the Champions League anthem?” says Stephen Carr. “Reckon they’ll do similar when it happens when teams take the knee? (That’s a rhetorical question by the way.)”
They’ll probably fine Belgium for delaying the kick off.
7 min Dzyuba rumbles forward and wins the first corner of the game. Russia should be dangerous from set-pieces. Golovin strolls over to take the corner... and booms it out of play for a throw-in on the far side.
5 min Nothing to report so far. Belgium have had most of the ball, with Castagne and Thorgan Hazard more wing than back in the first few minutes.
2 min Belgium’s players took a knee before the game, while Russia’s did not. There were plenty of boos around the ground as well.
1 min Peep peep! Russia kick off from right to left. They are technically the away side so they are wearing their white change strip. Belgium are in red.
“I do understand your point about the game being resumed but I have full confidence in the Danes discussing as a group about what they would like to do,” says Ruth Purdue. “Others outside the group can have opinions on it on whether it’s right or not but they made their decision. I applaud them all for their bravery and solidarity. I thank all those involved today in helping save Mr Eriksen and those who planned in case of such terrible events should happen.”
I agree – at first I was appalled because I thought they had been pressured into it, but it sounds like that wasn’t the case.
The players line up for the national anthems. There’s a decent crowd in St Petersburg, around 34,000 I think.
“Hello Rob,” says Kári Tulinius. “My wife is Finnish, and we live in Helsinki. Our son is six years old and has just caught the football bug. He’s now falling asleep watching his first ever Finland match. So many children in Denmark and Finland watched a game of football for the first time. I’m beyond happy for Eriksen and his family, teammates and friends, but also for my son and all the children who can hear that Eriksen is recovering.”
The pre-match thoughts of Roberto Martinez
“We are all aware of what happened in Copenhagen and it was a real shock. Some of our squad have played with him, and straight away there was a real sense of wanting to send our energy and our prayers. We hope he has a speedy recovery.”
Belgium and Russia were in the same qualifying group for Euro 2020. Both teams won eight of eight against the rest... and Belgium made it 10 out of 10 by beating Russia 3-1 and 4-1.
“News reports state that the Danish players talked to Eriksen and agreed to play on,” says Mary Waltz. “I can’t say I agree but I am assuming the Danish players made that decision as a group. This near tragedy reminded me of two things. How grateful I am for our medical professionals and how quickly we as a society put aside the fact that millions of people all over the world have died and are dying as I type. The crap of 2020 just won’t leave us. Prayers for Eriksen and everyone else who are suffering today.”
At first I was appalled that the match was going to resume, but if the Danish players instigated it I think it’s the right decision. I can see both sides of this argument. The game in which Fabrice Muamba collapsed was abandoned, but last season Arsenal and Wolves played on after that sickening injury to Raul Jimenez. They must have known, like the Danish players now, that he had regained consciousness and was doing okay.
“Let me please say thanks for Barry Glendenning’s updates in the last hour or so,” says Duncan Edwards. “His respectful and no-nonsense reporting was spot on. No doubt many tears of stress and relief have been shed around Europe, I’m sure. We all love a good laugh and a good moan about football but it’s not life and death. Now I hope you have a nine-goal thriller to commentate on.”
I couldn’t agree more. There’s no manual for how to cover a shocking event like this, and Barry did brilliantly.
The match between Denmark and Finland is about to resume. It sounds like the Danish players were very keen to finish the game this evening.
Eden Hazard is only on the bench for Belgium, though that isn’t a huge surprise given the season he’s had. His brother Thorgan starts at left wing-back, and Kevin De Bruyne misses out as expected. Only four of tonight’s team started the World Cup semi-final defeat to France in 2018: Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Romelu Lukaku.
Five of the Russia team started their quarter-final defeat to Croatia three years ago: Mario Fernandes, Roman Zobnin, Daler Kuzyaev, Aleksandra Golovin and the captain Artem Dzyuba. There’s also a place for Chelsea alumnus Yuri Zhirkov, 37, who was part of the marvellous team that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008.
Belgium (3-4-2-1) Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen; Castagne, Dendoncker, Tielemans, T Hazard; Mertens, Carrasco, Lukaku.
Substitutes: Mignolet, Sels, Vermaelen, E Hazard, Meunier, Denayer, Benteke, Chadli, Batshuayi, Trossard, Doku, Praet.
Russia (possible 4-2-3-1) Shunin; Mario Fernandes, Semenov, Dzhikiya, Zhirkov; Ozdoev, Barinov; Zobnin, Golovin, Kuzyaev; Dzyuba.
Substitutes: Dyupin, Safonov, Diveev, Karavaev, Cheryshev, Sobolev, Zabolotny, Aleksei Miranchuk, Zhemaletdinov, Ionov, Evgenyev, Mukhin.
Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain).
Christian Eriksen is alive. This is not the opening line I expected to write for a liveblog of Belgium v Russia, but Eriksen’s harrowing on-field collapse has overshadowed everything else at Euro 2020. The latest news is that he is awake and stable in hospital, where further tests will be done.
The match was suspended just before half-time, with the score 0-0. It’s going to be completed tonight, which is more than a little surprising. This is the other match in Group B, and the start of Belgium’s latest attempt to turn potential into trophy-winning glory. Once the action begins, I’m sure we’ll lose ourselves in football again, but for now everyone is slightly in shock.
Kick off 8pm BST, 10pm in St Petersburg, 9pm in Brussels.