Facial injury still affecting De Bruyne at Euro 2020

AP , Saturday 19 Jun 2021

De Bruyne is set to start against Finland on Monday, with Belgium already sure of advancing

De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne is still feeling the effects of that shuddering collision with Antonio Rudiger in last month's Champions League final.

Not that it's showing at the European Championship.

The Belgium midfielder came on as a halftime substitute against Denmark on Thursday for his first appearance at Euro 2020 and transformed the game by setting up one goal and scoring himself in a 2-1 win for his team.

De Bruyne is set to start against Finland on Monday, with Belgium already sure of advancing.

Yet he is heading into the tournament's knockout stage in far-from-perfect shape, having missed Belgium's first match _ a 3-0 win over Russia _ while he recovered from a minor operation on a fractured nose and eye socket sustained in a clash with Rudiger while playing for Manchester City against Chelsea in the Champions League final on May 29.

``I still have very little feeling in the left side (of my face),'' De Bruyne said Saturday. ``I have got used to that in the last few weeks but it's a bit annoying.''

De Bruyne said he has been ``scared to go into challenges,'' and that was noticeable in practice on Saturday when he purposely avoided heading the ball.

``We're just being careful,'' he said. ``In practice, I just don't do that.''

Wearing face masks off the field has become a way of life for players at a tournament being played during a pandemic, but De Bruyne is glad he doesn't have to do it during games, too.

``I think I would be annoyed with that,'' De Bruyne said about the option of wearing a protective mask on his face following the injuries.

And he has no hard feelings toward Rudiger.

``I haven't been angry. It's something that happens,'' De Bruyne said. ``I knew he wanted to block me but I also know he didn't want to hurt me so I don't have a problem with it.

``These are moments in football that happen. Too bad for me but I haven't had an angry moment with Rudiger. He sent me a message after the match. I responded, and that's long gone.''

The disappointment of losing the Champions League final to Chelsea 1-0 didn't linger too long with De Bruyne. He said the pain was eased by the fact that City won the Premier League and the English League Cup last season.

Since then, he has also been voted English soccer's player of the year by his fellow pros for the second straight season and is among the favorites to win FIFA's world player of the year for the first time.

Much will depend on how far Belgium go at Euro 2020.

``I have no control over that,'' De Bruyne said of his chances. ``I try to be the best player I can be, and afterwards I'm just very happy that I don't have to choose.

``There are so many great players in the world. I am proud to see people consider me as one of the possible winners _ it means you are among the best players in the world and that's the thing I've been working for my whole life.''

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