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Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
Belgium kick off with fine win
Belgium 2-1 Sweden
(Brussels - Att: 50,000)
Co-hosts Belgium enjoyed the perfect start to their Euro 2000 campaign with a very impressive 2-1 victory over Sweden in Brussels.
Bart Goor and Emile Mpenza were the heroes for Belgium with fine finishes either side of half-time that made Sweden pay for some uncharacteristically sloppy defending.
Sweden had started with Henrik Larsson on the bench, but front pairing Kennet Andersson and Jorgen Petterson linked up well to put the Belgian defence under pressure early on.
The lanky Andersson came closest with a header from a high swinging corner wihile Petterson threatened several times to burst through.
But as the half wore on, so the co-hosts seized the initiative in an unusually open game.
Branko Strupar fired over with a quick shot on the turn and the pacy Emile Mpenza began to trouble the normally solid Swedish defence.
Goor it was though who pounced two minutes before the break when Roland Nilsson dwelt on the ball outside his own penalty area, and the midfielder ran through to slot neatly past Magnus Hedman.
Mpenza then more than made amends for his earlier miss barely a minute after the restart.
As the static Swedish defence appealed for handball, the lively 21-year-old let fly from 15 yards with an unstoppable shot that left Hedman no chance.
Two goals in front and with their home crowd in fine voice, Belgium looked good for more more goals but an awful error from goalkeeper Filip De Wilde gifted Sweden a way back into the game.
De Wilde came out to control a back pass but lost his footing and allowed defender Johan Mjallby to steal the ball and guide it home from a narrow angle.
Larsson came on as Sweden searched for an equaliser but the home side, although briefly unsettled by the goal, soon rediscovered their composure.
Mpenza had an opportunist strike ruled out and new Aston Villa striker Luc Nilis twice came close to restoring Belgium's two-goal advantage after replacing Branko Strupar with 20 minutes to go.
Mjallby forced De Wilde into a good save with a header but with several quick breaks, it was Belgium who finished the stronger and they duly held on to launch their bid for European glory in fine style.
Before the match, Europe's eleventh soccer championship finals had kicked off with a short but spectacular launch ceremony highlighting the tournament's theme of 'Football knows no boundaries.'
Four thousand white balloons rose into the air from inside Brussels' King Baudouin Stadium, the scene of one of soccer's worst tragedies when 39 fans died before the 1985 European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus.
Belgium: De Wilde, Deflandre, Staelens, Valgaeren, Leonard (Van Kerckhoven 72), Verheyen (Peeters 88), Wilmots, Vanderhaeghe, Goor, E. Mpenza, Strupar (Nilis 69).
Sweden: Hedman, Nilsson (Lucic 45), P. Andersson, Bjorklund, Mellberg, Mjallby, Alexandersson, Ljungberg, D. Andersson (Osmanovski 69), K. Andersson, Petterson (Larsson 50).
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