Belgium got the better of Portugal in Seville this evening, with a number of fascinating talking points having stemmed from the clash.
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Hazard decides it
The most high-profile outing of Euro 2020’s Round-of-16 played out a short time ago. World no.1 Belgium faced off with European champions Portugal, in a highly anticipated showdown at the Estadio La Cartuja.
The matchup looked finely balanced ahead of kick-off, with little to separate two of world football’s most talented and ambitious national outfits.
In turn, it came as little surprise when a solitary goal eventually proved enough to settle the clash, in the favour of Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils.
The strike in question came shortly before the interval, when Thorgan Hazard, playing alongside brother Eden, cut inside from the left, before rifling a swerving long-range effort beyond the clutches of Rui Patricio in the Portugal net:
⚠️ ! ⚠️
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) June 27, 2021
A Selecao, to their credit, pushed hard for an equaliser over the course of the 2nd-half, and came within a whisker of finding it when Raphael Guerreiro rattled the base of the post:
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) June 27, 2021
When all was said and done, though, Belgium’s experienced backline, featuring all of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen, stood tall, to guide their nation into the Euros’ final 8.
Reds’ concerns & Cr7’s woes
As outlined above, on the back of the action coming to a close in Spain, a number of interesting talking points have since come to the fore.
First comes the potential repercussions of the efforts of Belgium’s star attackers on their upcoming quarter-final tie. The crunch fixtures will continue coming thick and fast for Martinez and co. next week, with an Italy side unbeaten in the country’s last 31 outings lying in wait on Friday.
Could the Red Devils, though, be without a pair of key performers up against the Azzurri?
Concerningly, both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard were forced to limp out of this evening’s action. The former appeared to pick up an ankle problem, whilst Real Madrid man Hazard tweaked his hamstring.
It now remains to be seen whether either is fit to take on the Italians.
Here can see both components of Kevin De Bruyne injury…
Left ankle into eversion & external rotation
Results in varying degree of medial/high ankle sprain (+/- fracture)
Can have assoc knee injury [MCL]
Xrays/MRI to assess damage#BEL #EURO2020 #BELPOR #MCI @City_Xtra #MCFC pic.twitter.com/IlGSYIp1Uv
— InjuryMechanisms (@IMechanisms) June 27, 2021
Next up when it comes to major talking points stemming from Sunday’s late fixture are the set-piece struggles of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal’s star man had of course enjoyed a stellar tournament before tonight, having rattled off no less than five goals across three group stage appearances.
Versus Belgium, though, the Juventus man was kept altogether in check. When Ronaldo’s chances did come, they were largely from distance, with a pair of free-kicks, one which forced a fine save from Thibaut Courtois, having since given rise to a remarkable statistic.
Across his career to date, CR7 has attempted 52 set-piece shots in major tournaments. And, bizarrely, he has managed to find the net with just one:
Cristiano Ronaldo has attempted to shoot from a direct free-kick 52 times at major international tournaments.
— bwin (@bwin) June 27, 2021
Last up on our list of noteworthy takeaways from tonight’s Last-16 clash comes the display of Renato Sanches.
Midfield talent Sanches has been hotly tipped for a potential return to the Premier League this weekend, with Arsenal rumoured to be considering a swoop for the 23-year-old.
And, up against Belgium, Sanches proved exactly why.
Whilst his performance was far from perfect, the ex-Swansea man, time and time again, showcased drive and intent from his berth in the middle of the park, putting his side on his shoulders over lengthy stretches.
Sanches possesses a whole host of impressive traits, including a fine touch, explosive athleticism and a keen eye for a pass.
Mikel Arteta’s midfield in North London is lacking in all three, with Sanches’ display this evening likely to have done little to dissuade Arsenal from launching a swoop for the Portuguese over the weeks ahead.
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