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Romelu Lukaku goal sees Belgium top Group B and gives Finland nervy wait

Brave Finland’s Euro hopes were crushed in the cruellest possible manner on a night of heartbreak in Saint Petersburg.

The minnows fought magnificently to get within touching distance of a guaranteed place in the knockout phases…and one of the biggest ever shocks in the tournament as they held world number one Belgium at bay.

But just as it seemed they were about to write history with a point and second place in their group, fate viciously conspired against them with an own goal from their star performer Lukas Hradecky.

It was so horribly cruel on the outstanding keeper, who had produced more heroics on the night to somehow blunt the brilliant Belgians.

Lukas Hradecky conceded an unfortunate own goal after a header from Thomas Vermaelen

But there was nothing he could do as Thomas Vermaelen’s 74th magnificent header cannoned off the bar and hit the back of his arm, before bouncing slowly, agonisingly over the line.

Soon after Romelu Lukaku smashed a second to condemn the Finns to third place in the group, and with only three points they need a small miracle from the results in the remaining games to go through.

Their coach Markku Kanerva conceded that his side’s chance of history – their “dream” – may have gone, but he insisted: “I am extremely proud of this team and how fearlessly they have played against one of the best in the world.

“I feel somehow empty at the moment, I must say. The dream was to get the point which would put us through.

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“We still have a slight chance of going through, but unfortunately the other results have not gone well for us, so it’s only a very slight chance. But in any case, we can be proud of finishing third in such a quality group.”

Finland never really threatened, but they did blunt Belgium’s all star attack until the final few minutes, when the sapping heat took its toll.

To do that with the likes of the excellent Danny O’Shaughnessy at centre half – a Finnish born son of an Irish father, who had two brief, unsuccessful spells in English football – was admirable.

It could have been so much more though, but for Vermaelen’s pounding header, and the brilliance of Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne, who looked razor sharp for a player recovering from a shattered eye socket and cheekbone.

He looks to be one of the tournament’s most lethal threats, as do Belgium as a team, and their manager Roberto Martinez said: “It was very positive. Kevin showed he is back to his level, and I think the whole team produced a disciplined, controlled display.”




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