De Bruyne to miss Belgium’s Euro opener against Russia

De Bruyne recovering from facial injury he suffered in Champions League final

Belgium’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne looks  on  during a training session at the team’s base camp at the Belgian National Football Centre in Tubize. Photograph:   Getty Images

Belgium’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne looks on during a training session at the team’s base camp at the Belgian National Football Centre in Tubize. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Kevin de Bruyne will miss Belgium’s first European Championship match against Russia on Saturday.

Belgium coach Robert Martinez has left his talisman behind to continue his recovery from a double facial fracture suffered in the Champions League final.

“With De Bruyne it was a medical choice. He had a positive day on the pitch with the squad,” Martinez said of training on Friday before the squad flew to Russia.

“The next two days will be very important (for midfielder De Bruyne) to get back to level, to move freely, to practice before rejoining the squad. He is very happy. The decision has been made to keep him in Belgium, so that he can get fit there.”

There are no concerns, meanwhile, in the Belgium camp about a Covid-19 outbreak in the Russia team , goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has said.

Midfielder Andrei Mostovoy tested positive and was replaced in the squad by defender Roman Yevgenyev on Friday in a blow to the Russians.

They follow the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden on the list of countries who have been hit by cases before the tournament.

But Belgium’s Courtois shrugged off any potential unease at a news conference on Friday ahead of the Group B clash.

“It is not something that frightens us. It is something that has happened a lot over the last season in many leagues,” he said.

“We are kind of used to that. It is unfortunate for them but I think we are protected and I don’t think we have a problem with that.”

Belgium face Russia some 18 months after handing their hosts a comprehensive 4-1 beating in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

“When you play against a team that you’ve already played previously, you know them a little better,” added Courtois.

“You know their weak points a little better and that’s always a good thing, although I suppose it could also count against you the other way round. But we know each other well and we are again well prepared for tomorrow.

“The first match, everyone may still play with the handbrake on, so as not to give anything away, especially defensively.

“But I hope we will play well from the kick off tomorrow. We play in Russia. We have already won here and hopefully we do it again and it becomes the start of a good month,” he said.

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