Finland v Belgium: De Bruyne can take Red Devils to the max

Kevin de Bruyne of Belgium
Kevin de Bruyne will start for Belgium

Dave Tindall previews Monday evening's match in Group B and expects Belgium to complete a trio of wins with victory over Finland in St Petersburg...

"Looking at De Bruyne's Premier League record, from 180 games he has 78 assists compared to 42 goals. Those ratios virtually repeat at international level: 39 assists and 22 goals for Belgium. Given that he's set up nearly twice as many as he's scored for both club and country, getting a bigger price for an assist suggests that is by far the best way to go."

Finland v Belgium
Monday, 20:00
Live on BBC1

Finland have given themselves hope

Victory over Denmark on that distressing night in Copenhagen means Finland could still top Group B with a victory over Belgium.

Okay, that may sound like a theoretical outcome but having three points in the bag gives them a fighting chance of reaching the last 16.

The 1-0 defeat to Russia in their second outing was a frustration given that Joel Pohjanpalo, their matchwinner against the Danes, looked to have headed the Finns in front early.

Had that goal stood, Finland would have been in a golden position to get the fourth point which virtually assures any team a place in the last 16. Instead, they fell behind to a cracking strike from Aleksei Miranchuk and couldn't find a leveller.

They return to St Petersburg for this one and will hope to create just a little bit more although it remains to be seen how much possession Belgium will allow them.

The Belgians were slow starters against Denmark so perhaps Finland's best chance of taking something lies in catching Roberto Martinez's men cold.

At least if they did manage a goal, their defence is robust enough to give them hope of allowing Belgium no more than one, thus grabbing the draw which would would secure qualification if Russia lose to Denmark.

Here's a thing though: Finland are unbeaten in their last seven games against Belgium. The last meeting came in 2016 when they led until the 89th minute.

De Bruyne impact was eyepopping

Belgium's first game of the tournament against Russia was a good one for punters. They ran out easy 3-0 winners and Romelu Lukaku scored twice, landing this column a nice payout having put him up for 2 or more.

But then came a strange - if perhaps understandable - first-half performance against Denmark.

It became obvious early on that the Danes were pumped up as they looked to 'do it for Christian Eriksen', who was watching from hospital. Belgium could barely string two passes together and were clearly caught on the back foot.

Getting to half-time just a goal down was a relative success but Martinez knew his team still had plenty of gears to go through.

As the Danes' intensity inevitably dropped a touch, Belgium produced two moments of class and the source was no surprise.

After missing the first match, Kevin De Bruyne was itching to get involved and made a stunning impact, laying on the first for Thorgan Hazard to tap home and then leathering in the winner with 20 minutes left.

The way Belgium's fortunes changed was remarkable and the bad news for Finland is that Martinez says De Bruyne will start on Monday night.

Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard are also due to get the nod with both needing minutes after disrupted seasons.

Belgium huge favourites

It's just about the biggest mismatch of the tournament so far in terms of the odds.

Belgium are just 1.351/3 while Finland are 13.012/1 to cause an almighty shock. The Draw is 5.39/2 and, of course, a stalemate would be enough for Belgium to top the group.

For those not prepared to take such a short price, the next obvious step given Finland's lack of firepower is Belgium to win to nil at 1.9420/21.

As for correct scores, Belgium are 9.28/1 to repeat the 3-0 scoreline they inflicted on Russia on their last trip to St Petersburg. The 2-0 option is 6.411/2.

Rather like Greece in 2004, it makes sense to think Finland's only way to win is via a 1-0. That's a massive 2928/1 if you're pro-Finn.

2.5 goals market is a pick 'em

Belgium's two games have both gone over 2.5 goals. They did it by themselves against Russia but needed a goal from Denmark to land it in Copenhagen.

Finland, by contrast, are geared towards low-scoring games and that's played out so far with a pair of 1-0s: one a win, the other a loss.

Put that all together and it's no surprise to see the 2.5 Goals market so finely balanced: Overs is 1.99 and Unders 1.97.

Both teams to Score is a different matter given that a Finnish goal is seen as a bit of a push given the lack of chances they've created so far.

Yes is 2.546/4, with No at 1.625/8. Many could be tempted by the former given that it's not unfair to think that Belgium's defence can creak when put under pressure.

De Bruyne assist is best bet

An injury to a star player can often be a blessing in disguise if it's fairly minor. It means they get a breather and will have fresh mind and legs when the green light is given.

That's surely the case with Kevin De Bruyne and he's the one I'm hoping can guide us to profit here.

The bet I like is De Bruyne for an anytime assist in a Belgium win at 3.711/4 on the Bet Builder.

The basic assist price is 23/10 while his anytime scorer odds are just 7/5. He landed both against Denmark despite playing just 45 minutes but the numbers support the assist.

Looking at De Bruyne's Premier League record, from 180 games he has 78 assists compared to 42 goals. Those ratios virtually repeat at international level: 39 assists and 22 goals for Belgium.

Given that he's set up nearly twice as many as he's scored for both club and country, getting a bigger price for an assist suggests that is by far the best way to go.

Opta stat

Since the 2014 World Cup, the two European players with the most assists at major international tournaments (World Cup & Euros) are Belgian pair Eden Hazard (9) and Kevin De Bruyne (8). Indeed, both players assisted against Denmark last time out, becoming the first substitute duo to both assist for the same team in a game at the European Championships since Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben in 2008 (for the Netherlands versus France).

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