Romelu Lukaku scored two minutes from time to give a dominating Belgium only a 1-1 draw against Finland and avoid a major upset ahead of the European Championship.

June 01, 2016

BRUSSELS (AP) — Romelu Lukaku scored two minutes from time to give a dominating Belgium only a 1-1 draw against Finland and avoid a major upset ahead of the European Championship.

After relentless attacking to avoid a humiliating home defeat, Dries Mertens sent a in a cross that finally fooled standout goalie Lukas Hradecky, who could slap the ball only onto the chest of Lukaku right on the line.

Earlier, sloppy defending by Thomas Vermaelen and Axel Witsel in the 53rd minute allowed Kasper Hamalainen to sneak through the center to latch on to a cross and easily beat goalkeeper Thibault Courtois.

Belgium, one of the favorites for Euro 2016, opens its campaign in Group E against Italy on June 13.

"We should have won today, so it is up to us to learn from this," said Lukaku, who was supposed to rest Wednesday and was only brought on to avoid an embarrassing defeat.

Belgium experimented in attack and defense. Coach Marc Wilmots started with Marseille striker Michy Batshuayi as center forward and he came no closer to scoring than heading a cross onto the post in the 38th minute.

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In defense, the central Tottenham pair of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were placed on the wings. Belgium has been hit with multiple injuries in defense, and played with Thomas Vermaelen and Jason Denayer at the back.

Finland, ranked 61st in the world, was kept in the game by Hradecky who capped his great game with a superb save from a shot by Mertens in the final moments of the match at the King Baudouin Stadium.

Belgium also faces Sweden and Ireland in the group stage.

Belgium had beaten Switzerland 2-1 last Sunday and will play Norway next Sunday before leaving for the tournament in France.


OSLO, Norway (AP) — Iceland slumped to a 3-2 defeat to Norway in a friendly on Wednesday as the islanders prepared for their first major tournament at the European Championship.

Stefan Johansen scored with a first-minute volley as Norway, which didn't qualify for Euro 2016, dominated its opponent. Sverrir Ingi Ingason leveled for Iceland in the 36th minute, before Pal Andre Helland scored Norway's second with a free kick in the 41st.

Alexander Sorloth made it 3-1 in the 67th and Gylfi Sigurdsson converted a penalty for Iceland in the 81st minute.

Iceland opens its campaign against Portugal on June 14, and also faces Austria and Hungary in Group F.


INNSBRUCK, Austria (AP) — Striker Tomas Necid set up one goal before scoring a last-minute winner as Czech Republic came from behind to beat Russia 2-1 in a friendly Wednesday between two sides preparing for the European Championship.

The Bursaspor forward met a low cross from the left by Ladislav Krejci to beat Russia goalkeeper Guilherme Alvim Marinato from close range and hand victory to the Czechs.

Four minutes into the second half, Necid set up the equalizer when his header found captain Tomas Rosicky, who sent a volley past Guilherme at the near post.

Aleksandr Kokorin had given Russia an early lead after six minutes, scoring from the edge of the area for his 12th international goal.

"I'm glad that we managed to come back," Czech coach Pavel Vrba said. "Our attacking was at a decent level at some stages of the game. But I can't say everything was perfect."

Rosicky, who stayed on for 85 minutes, looked full of energy after recovering from injuries and distributed clever passes to his teammates throughout the match.

Russia captain Igor Denisov tested Petr Cech with a long-range drive in the 87th that the Czech goalkeeper let slip through his hands, only for the ball to bounce back from the post.

Defender Roman Neustaedter, who previously played two friendlies for Germany, made his debut as a substitute, just two days after obtaining a Russian passport.

Russia plays Serbia on Sunday in its last warmup game before taking on England in Group B at Euro 2016 on June 11.

Czech Republic has a friendly against South Korea remaining on Sunday before opening the tournament against defending champion Spain on June 13 in Group D.

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