5 talking points as Hazard's first-half strike sees Belgium dump out Portugal

Belgium took one step closer to Euros glory after Thorgan Hazard’s strike saw off Portugal in the last 16.

The World’s No 1 ranked nation underlined their credentials as they sent the defending champions packing in Seville.

Roberto Martinez’s side had breezed through a relatively easy group but showed they were more than capable of stepping up.

Hazard has been impressive on Belgium’s left flank throughout the tournament and stepped inside to fire home from 20 yards just before half-time.

Portugal’s Rui Patricio may have done better, but the swerve on the strike ultimately proved too much.

Cristiano Ronaldo and co huffed and puffed in the second 45 but were unable to breakdown a dogged defence with Raphael Guerreiro smacking the post late on.

Belgium find themselves in the tougher half of the draw so will certainly have to earn victory with a last eight clash to come against Italy in Munich.

Here are five talking points from Sunday night’s clash.

Thorgan Hazard fired home the decisive goal
Thorgan Hazard fired home the decisive goal

Belgium can seize the moment

Ever since we saw the strength of their squad at the 2014 World Cup, Belgium have been highlighted as major tournament contenders.

They endured a learning curve in that tournament before a disappointing display in France two years later. At the World Cup in Russia they beat Brazil en route to the last four, where they were eventually beaten by France.

If there is any such due diligence that needs to be undertaken before glory is attained then Belgium certainly have done theirs.

Plenty of their current crop were present in 2014, the likes of De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen and Thibaut Courtois, and have all learnt what is required to succeed in tournament football.

Belgium’s best performance at a major tournament is second at the Euros in 1980 – this group could finally be ready to go one better.

Eden who?

Hazard produced a sensational strike to score the game’s opener. Not the Real Madrid man, the other one.

Anyone who’d watched football over the past decade would look at the score sheet and think Eden is back to his best.

Afraid not. His younger brother Thorgan has been a class act throughout Euro 2020 though and came up trumps.

Deployed in a left wing-back role, the Borussia Dortmund star cut in before lashing home just before half-time.

He has continued to grow in both stature and influence during the tournament and with the established Hazard far from his best the baton has been passed on, for now at least.

Renato Sanches has been a standout for Portugal
Renato Sanches has been a standout for Portugal

Sanches just loves the Euros

Sometimes you need to remind yourself that Renato Sanches is only 23 years ago. Already he seems to have had a careers worth of moves, highs and lows.

It was at the Euros five years ago that the Portuguese star rose to prominence and subsequently got a move to Bayern Munich.

Based on his performances in France he looked set to dominate but it didn’t happen that way and his time in Germany was cut short.

An unspectacular loan spell at Swansea underlined his drop off but he has rebuilt his career at Nice.

It seems that he loves European Championships because he’s been one of his country’s stand out men. Even on Sunday night, in a team full of stars, it was Sanches who injected the spark into an attack that lacked energy.

The hope now is that the player we’ve seen over the past fortnight is here to stay.

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Ronaldo’s mixed tournament

He could well finish at the tournament’s top goal scorer – although Lukaku and Patrick Schick may have something to say about that – and finally matched the all-time international scoring record.

Strikers are, of course, always judged on their goal return.

But in all honesty the Juventus man, who faces an uncertain club future, was average at best at these Euros.

Some may accuse him of being a penalty merchant who was fortunate enough to also be handed two tap-ins en route to his five-goal haul.

Otherwise will say he’s a man for the big occasion whose appetite for goals is unwavering. I suppose it depends what you value, but a man of his calibre should’ve taken a quality nation beyond the last 16.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored five times but couldn't lead his side to the latter stages of the tournament
Cristiano Ronaldo scored five times but couldn’t lead his side to the latter stages of the tournament

One-dimensional Portugal

If there was no such thing as the counter-attack then Portugal would certainly be less of a side.

Fortunately for them though it does exist and when they break they are simply devastating. Their opening goal against Germany showed us that.

However such a tactic is very easy to combat and Belgium were more than happy to sit deep and allow their opponents to keep the ball at times.

Strange really, that a team with so much talent struggled for so long to break down their opponents when they sat in. Their best chance coming early on when Sanches broke quickly and fed Diogo Jota, who fired wide.

In the second-half they endeavoured to find an equaliser but, with the exception of Guerreiro’s effort, Courtois was not really needed to produce brilliance.

As the Euros went on and the quality of opponents improved there was always a danger that their main attacking weapon would be stifled, as was the case in Seville.


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