Belgium knocked out defending champions Portugal from Euro 2020. They got a 1-0 victory in the last 16 on Sunday. Also, it will set up a mouth-watering quarter-final tie against Italy.
A 43rd-minute strike from Thorgan Hazard secured the win for Roberto Martinez’s team. Also, they survived plenty of pressure from the Portuguese in the second half.
But with the finishing touch missing, it was the end of the road for Cristiano Ronaldo. Also, it is an exit of a Portugal team that had triumphed in Paris five years ago.
Ronaldo bows out with five goals from four games. Also, he is currently the tournament’s top scorer. Yet it remains to be seen if the 36-year-old will return for a sixth Euros in Germany in 2024 or if the competition’s all-time top scorer will bow out of national team duty after the Qatar World Cup next year.
Belgium was among the pre-tournament favorites. But this was an uninspired display and also, they will need to raise their game significantly, if they are to get past Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri. Italy is unbeaten in 31 matches.
Thorgan Hazard’s fine goal was their only effort on target in the whole 90 minutes. Also, there was little invention or flair from their midfield.
“In the first half we were playing high and putting pressure on Portugal, but looking at that second half, we are lucky to win,” said Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen.
The task against Italy could be even more difficult if Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard. They both came off with knocks in the second half. Also, they are unable to recover from their latest injury woes.
Portugal began brightly and Diogo Jota wasted a great chance in the sixth minute. He dragged his shot wide after Renato Sanches had broken from midfield and found him in a promising position on the left.
Ronaldo then tested Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois with a low-struck free-kick as Fernando Santos’s team continued to apply pressure.
In Match Stories:
Belgium grew into the game with De Bruyne increasingly influential. Also, they grabbed the lead three minutes before the interval.
A smart passing move ended with Thomas Meunier feeding Thorgan Hazard. His wickedly swerving shot flew past the wrong-footed Portugal keeper Rui Patricio.
Patricio stepped to the right in anticipation of a near-post shot but was unable to get back across and was beaten by an effort that flew in centrally.
“In these kinds of games you have to grab your chances with both hands and voila, the goalkeeper expected me to choose the other corner, so the ball went in,” said the scorer.
Belgium suffered a blow when De Bruyne limped off with an injury three minutes after the break. That time, Santos put more attacking options into his side’s attack by introducing Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix from the bench.
Ronaldo, cutting in from the right, did well to find Jota in the box. but again the forward’s effort was off target as Belgium struggled to contain their opponents.
Belgium’s attempts to counter were increasingly rare. Portugal turned up the heat in the final 10 minutes as they searched desperately for an equalizer against Belgium.
Courtois punched away a thundering Ruben Dias header from a corner and then Raphael Guerreiro struck the post with a sweet first-time shot from the edge of the box.
Deep in added time, Portugal created one final opportunity but Felix’s drive flashed just wide of Courtois’s right-hand post.
What They Said:
“I didn’t have a lot of work to do in the previous three games, but I knew that wasn’t going to be the case against Portugal,” said Courtois.
“I am proud of my teammates; they defended very well. Italy will be difficult too, but we have proved today that we are ready for it,” he said.
Belgium will face Italy, which beat Austria 2-1 on Saturday, in Munich on July 2.