Thorgan Hazard Goal Earns Belgium Victory Over Portugal

The best teams play the most attractive football when they have the most to lose. Tonight’s Euro 2020 Round of 16 game between Belgium and Portugal showed that. Portugal rushed into full form only in the last minutes when they were forced to search for an equalizer. It wasn’t to be as the experienced Belgium side maneuvered for a narrow triumph that leaves them in the competition as one of the biggest favorites to win it.

Portugal had more experience of playing against world-class teams during this tournament. As a consequence, Fernando Santos slightly adapted his 4-2-3-1 system. Diego Dalot started as a right-back. Meanwhile, Renato Sanches, Joao Palhinha, and Joao Moutinho were tasked with creating central midfield solidity.

Belgium, on the other hand, invested in the team’s biggest strengths, the players’ flair and skill. In a 3-4-2-1 formation, Robert Martinez opted to start with an attack formed out of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, and Kevin de Bruyne, the team’s most famous players.

This may have been the most anticipated match-up in the Euro 2020 so far. However, in the first 15 minutes, the teams looked content to merely evaluate each other’s weaknesses and strengths.

In the 24th minute, Portugal were awarded a potentially dangerous freekick. Cristiano Ronaldo sent a knuckleball rocketing towards the net, but Thibaut Courtois punched it away.

The tense encounter continued. Belgium unsurprisingly showed a higher degree of inspiration in the midfield area. Portugal, however, looked dangerous when springing on the counter-attack.

With the match lacking in terms of spectacle, it was a goal that forced the teams to engage. Thorgan Hazard provided the strike in an unexpected fashion. The more in form of the Hazard brothers took advantage of the space afforded to him just in front of the goal box, took a long shot, and beat Rui Patricio.

One of the worst news Roberto Martinez could have received arrived in the 48th minute. The team’s chief playmaker, Kevin de Bruyne left the team injured and was replaced by Napoli’s Dries Mertens.

Understanding that failing to press for an equalizer would inevitably place Belgium in a very good position, Portugal began to attack frantically in the second half. Numerous changes followed, but few profited from their most incisive player Ronaldo.

In the 55th minute, CR7 controlled the ball well past two defenders and placed a great vertical pass towards Diogo Jota, but the Liverpool striker put it over the crossbar.

Joao Felix managed to head the ball goalwards in the 60th minute from a good position, but Courtois easily held on.

Meanwhile, Eden Hazard, who dealt on the left flank throughout the match, looked to create space for the strong, resilient forward Romelu Lukaku.

In the 81st minute, Ruben Dias headed the ball well from inside the area, but it was punched away by the Belgium keeper. One minute later, Guerreiro hit the bar from a ball outside the area. In spite of Portugal’s best effort to save themselves towards the final minutes, the game had been decided as soon as Thorgan Hazard’s goal.

Belgium went through, then. The team looks every bit like a potential European champion. Still, these are words that have been uttered before.

Portugal leaves the tournament early, but did not disappoint. Rather, Ronaldo and his teammates were the victims of circumstances. This time, fortune was not in their corner. Things have a tendency to even themselves out in football as elsewhere.



June 27, 2021 – European Championship 2020 Round of 16

SCORER: 42′ T. Hazard

BELGIUM (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, T. Hazard (95′ Dendoncker); De Bruyne (46′ Mertens), E. Hazard (87′ Carrasco); Lukaku (Sels, Mignolet, Denayer, Boyata, Praet, Benteke, Trossard, Batshuayi, Doku) Coach: Martinez
PORTUGAL (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Diogo Dalot, Ruben Dias, Pepe, Guerreiro; Moutinho (56′ Bruno Fernandes), Palhinha (78′ Danilo), Renato Sanches (78′ Sergio Olivera); Bernardo Silva (56′ Joao Felix), Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota (70′ André Silva) (Lopes, Silva, Fonte, Mendes, Semedo, Neves, Pote) Coach: Fernando Santos

REFEREE: Brych (Germany)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Vermaelen, Alderweireld (B), Palhinha, Diogo Dalot, Pepe (P)