SEVILLE (Reuters) – Prime-ranked Belgium and their golden technology face an early reckoning on the European Championship in opposition to decided holders Portugal, who clawed their approach into the final 16 to arrange the potential match of the spherical on Sunday.
The distinction in progress couldn’t have been larger with Belgium masterfully overcoming adversity to win all their group video games, whereas a pugnacious Portugal noticed their fortunes ebb and move earlier than they completed third of their part after holding world champions France to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday.
An additional day of relaxation was Belgium’s reward for topping Group B, having seen the talismanic trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel all return from damage after it regarded as if the guts of the group had been torn out on the eve of the match, threatening to scupper their sturdy probabilities.
The affect of the trio was clearly displayed after they got here on after a torrid first half in Belgium’s second group in opposition to Denmark, neutralising the emotion-fueled hosts and turning a halftime deficit right into a 2-1 win in Copenhagen.
That allowed Roberto Martinez to relaxation gamers within the 2-0 win over Finland on Monday in a textbook match state of affairs.
However whether or not it seems to be the best recipe for achievement within the knockout part stays to be seen. It might be counter argued that Portugal are higher ready, having needed to scrap in opposition to the likes of Germany, who beat them 4-2, and France.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos provided an easier method.
“These matches are all like finals now and in the event you don’t play nicely, you don’t win,” he instructed reporters.
“In league competitions you’ll be able to play badly and nonetheless win however right here at this match, at this stage in the event you don’t play nicely, you’ll lose… each time.”
Portugal have their very own talisman in Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants yet one more aim to develop into the all-time high scorer in worldwide soccer.
“He’s within the type of his life,” stated Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld, “however as a group we will cease him. That has all the time been our energy.”
“However they are going to be tough, they’re an actual match group,” he added.
The juxtaposition between the match-winning capabilities of Ronaldo and Belgium’s personal prolific marksman Romelu Lukaku provides intrigue to the sport at La Cartuja stadium
With 63 targets for his nation, Lukaku, who’s eight years youthful than Ronaldo, would possibly sooner or later problem the Portugal captain’s document.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape City; Modifying by Ken Ferris)