Euro 2020: Belgium Knocks Defending Champions Portugal Out
Belgium knocked defending champions Portugal out of Euro 2020 with a 1-0 victory in the last 16 to set up a thrilling quarter-final encounter against Italy.
Portugal began brightly and Diogo Jota wasted a great chance in the sixth minute, dragging his shot wide after Renato Sanches had broken from midfield and found him in a promising position on the left.
Cristiano Ronaldo then tested Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a low-struck free kick as Fernando Santos’s team continued to apply pressure.
However, Belgium grew into the game with Kevin De Bruyne increasingly influential and they grabbed the lead three minutes before the interval.
A smart passing move ended with Thomas Meunier feeding Thorgan Hazard, whose fierce swerving shot flew past the Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio and into the net.
Belgium suffered a blow when De Bruyne limped off with an injury three minutes after the break and Portugal coach Santos brought in reinforcements to breathe life 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 and Portugal turned up the heat in the final 10 minutes as they searched desperately for an equaliser.
But with the finishing touch missing, it was the end of the road for Cristiano Ronaldo and a Portugal team who had triumphed in Paris five years ago.
It was a tough 1-0 win for Belgium, who would need to raise their game significantly if they are to get past Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri who are unbeaten in 31 matches.
“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 goalkeeper Courtois.
“I am proud of my team mates; they defended very well. Italy will be difficult too, but we have proved today that we are ready for it.”
The task against Italy could be even more difficult if Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, who both came off with injuries in the second half, are unable to recover before the highly anticipated match.
Euro 2020 results
Netherlands 0-2 Czech Republic
Belgium 1-0 Portugal