Preparations continue for Euro 2016, with a spate of midweek matches following the announcement of the final squads for all nations involved. Chelsea will have only six representatives — a relatively low number, though other than Ivanovic and Matic, all other key players are either young, injured, or not actually from Europe — distributed among three nations, all of whom could conceivably win the title. So that's something to watch for later.
Back-to-back defending champions Spain count three of our beloved Blues among their numbers and just as in the previous friendly, two of them got the start. Cesar Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas both played the first half before being replaced by Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets, respectively. Fabregas even managed to get on the scoresheet with a lucky goal as South Korea, and especially their goalkeeper, had a bit of a 'mare.
Just like the last game, Pedro arrived on the scene at half-time, but unlike the last game, did not score. Azpilicueta, playing left back once again, did collect an assist with a wonderful outside of the boot pass for Spain's third. No armband action for any Chelsea players today, as Iker Casillas and Sergio Busquets split the honorable duties.
After the morning half-dozen, one would've expected a similar outpouring from Belgium, playing at home for the first time since before the Paris attacks and facing lowly Finland, but it took Hazard & Co almost 90 minutes to break down the staunch defense of the visitors. And even that goal needed a bit of help from the Finnish goalkeeper who had been mighty excellent up to that point. Lukáš Hrádecky (born in Slovakia!), remember the name.
At the other end, Thibaut Courtois had very little to do, but thanks to some incredibly Spursy defending, he did have to pick the ball out of the back of his net once. Neither Hazard nor any of Belgium's sparkling collection of attacking talent managed to cover themselves in great glory in the 1-1 draw. Dries Mertens, I suppose, looked lively while Lukaku's introduction proved crucial in the end.
That's two lackluster warm-up matches in a row from the tournament dark horses. Is it the players? Is it the coaching? Trying not to read too much into these games, but at some point, somebody will have to do something to make sure that Belgium's golden generation doesn't go to waste.
On a more positive note, Marco van Ginkel made his full international debut with his fifth cap, getting his first ever senior start for Netherlands in a 2-1 friendly win over Euros-bound Poland. The Dutch are of course not going thanks to a shocking qualification campaign. But there's plenty of promise there for the future with the likes of Van Ginkel, his midfield partner Riechedly Bazoer, goalscorers Vincent Janssen (AZ) and Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), and even someone like right back Kenny Tete (Ajax). One suspects we'll be hearing many of those names in transfer rumors in the near future (and in the case of Bazoer, we've already have).