Denmark v Belgium
Live on ITV1
Denmark will have a different focus
Denmark came into Euro 2020 with plenty to look forward to and a genuine sense of excitement.
They had home advantage for all three group games and, for their opener against Finland, there was a real sense of liberation. Saturday night's match was the first day of the pandemic in which people could go out again as before.
The buzz in the air was strong even though Finland weren't making it easy as the game approached half-time. And then everything changed.
Christian Eriksen's collapse following a cardiac arrest was a truly shocking sight for those in the stadium and everyone watching on TV around the world: these were scenes simply incongruous with a football match.
It's fair to say that most feared the worst until images started to appear on social media of Eriksen holding his hand to his head before being led away by medical staff.
Every human being is equal but this happening to Denmark's most iconic player exaggerated the shock.
When further good news came that he was awake in hospital, the relief was palpable although it's since emerged that Denmark's players felt they were put in a rather impossible position in being asked if they wanted to finish the match or play it the next day. Where was option C?
That they lost 1-0 to Finland's only effort on goal, missing a penalty in the process, came as no surprise. Goodness knows how they were feeling and this was a night when the result was irrelevant.
Eriksen's continued improvement has now changed the focus of his teammates when they could have been forgiven for just wanting Euro 2020 to end. As Kasper Schmeichel told local broadcaster DR: "We're still in the tournament. Now, we have to try to see if we can win this and do it for Christian.
"I have no doubt that this team has the unity, the strength to be able to come together and go out and do something special."
The day after Schmeichel's rallying call, Eriksen posted on Instagram a photo of himself making a thumbs-up gesture which read: "Big thanks for your sweet and amazing greetings and messages from all around the world. It means a lot to me and my family.
"I'm fine - under the circumstances. I still have to go through some examinations at the hospital, but I feel okay. Now, I will cheer on the boys on the Denmark team in the next matches. Play for all of Denmark. Best, Christian."
Belgium looking to build on opening win
Belgium's players were watching on TV when Eriksen collapsed so they too felt distress ahead of their opener against Russia.
Admirably they kept their focus and when Eriksen's Inter teammate Romelu Lukaku seized on a Russian error to fire Belgium in front early on, the striker sprinted to the touchline camera and shouted: "Chris, Chris, sterkte jongen [stay strong, boy], I love you."
Lukaku added a second late on to justify his status as one of the Golden Boot favourites and a second from Thomas Meunier after 34 made it something of a stroll for the Belgians.
Prior to the Germany v France match on Tuesday night, Belgium were 7.87/1 to lift the trophy while Lukaku was just 3.65 to finish as top scorer.
With the win over Russia, Belgium have now won 20 and drawn three of their last 24 matches, the sole defeat coming against England in a Nations League clash at Wembley.
Their easy dismissal of Russia confirmed the feeling most had pre-tournament: Belgium look big, big runners.
For Thursday's second group game in Copenhagen, Belgium are the clear 2.1211/10 favourites to make it two wins out of two and secure a place in the last 16.
Denmark are 4.47/2 to take victory in what is sure to be an emotional evening in the Danish capital while The Draw is trading at 3.39/4.
In terms of past meetings, Denmark and Belgium's only previous meeting at a major tournament was in the group stages of Euro 1984. Denmark won 3-2 after having been 2-0 down, one of only six times a two-goal deficit has been overcome in a win at the tournament.
As for more recent head-to-head form, Belgium have the edge after winning 4-2 in November 2020 (home) and 2-0 in September 2020 (away) in the UEFA Nations League.
Based purely on that, Belgium look a decent punt at over Even Money.
However, most punters look beyond basic head-to-head form, however recent, when trying to assess prices. And this is where it becomes difficult for me to write this preview.
I'll cut to the chase. I won't be recommending a bet on the match. Trying to build an argument that takes into account Denmark's psychological state due to one of their teammates almost dying and then making a bet on the back of it feels crass and insensitive.
It's individual choice of course but maybe the best betting advice I could offer is to give some of your intended stake/winnings to a charity that helps those affected by heart disorders. There is a great one here.
I'll add some further info for those wanting to bet.
Firstly, Both teams to Score is a close market. Yes is 2.01/1 while No trades as the slight 1.9420/21 favourite.
Denmark didn't score but they had 23 efforts on goal v Finland, with six on target.
Over 2.5 goals is the clear outsider though at 2.265/4. Those backing it may note that it's landed in seven of Belgium's last 11 games.
The prolific Romelu Lukaku has now scored two or more 12 times in his last 35 internationals following another brace against Russia.
Looking at his Sportsbook prices, the Inter man is 11/10 anytime, 11/2 for two or more and 25/1 for a hat-trick.
For in-play backers, his second goal against Russia came in the 88th minute and he's netted plenty of late strikes against tiring defences.
On the Bet Builder, an obvious option is Lukaku to score first in a Belgium win at 5.59/2. That's landed in his last two starts for the Red Devils.
Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 26 goals in his 19 games for Belgium since the end of the 2018 World Cup (22 goals, 4 assists). Indeed, during this run Lukaku has only failed to score or assist in three of those 19 appearances, one of which came against Denmark in September 2020.