Euro 2020: Hazard goal bundles Ronaldo’s Portugal out
A moment of class from Thorgan Hazard proved enough to knock out holders Portugal as Belgium continued their pursuit of a first major title by reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
The Borussia Dortmund winger’s swerving drive from 25 yards arrived late in a cagey first-half and proved enough for Roberto Martinez’s side to set up a mouth-watering meeting with Italy on Friday.
Portugal – who again only introduced Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes from the bench – will look back on key Diogo Jota chances, a Ruben Dias header that was saved and a late Raphael Guerreiro drive that struck the post.
Kevin De Bruyne’s fitness may dominate headlines in the build-up to the Italy showdown in Munich after he limped off moments after half-time, and Belgium also lost Eden Hazard to a complaint late on.
The world’s highest-ranked side may have key holes to fill but again they have showed they possess the grit to complement their undoubted quality.
Martinez punched the air and shouted “yes” on the sound of the final whistle while Ronaldo crouched and beat the turf in frustration at Seville’s Estadio de La Cartuja.
The Juventus forward’s side had perhaps shown their best football of the tournament in the second 45 minutes, amassing 15 of a lofty 23 shots on the night.
Jota fired a snap-shot over, Dias warmed the hands of Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois with a point-blank header, Guerreiro found the foot of the post, and substitute Joao Felix dragged a late effort wide.
Manager Fernando Santos may well be asked where such an industrious 45 minutes had been hiding.
That they failed to find top gear at Euro 2020 despite a talent-packed squad is puzzling and whether Ronaldo – now 36 – graces another major tournament will now likely become a focus.
He will undoubtedly at some stage go on to move clear of former Iran striker Ali Daei in the all-time men’s goalscoring ranks, with the pair both on 109 international goals.
His frustration at the final whistle though was tangible as, after the highs of securing a first major honour in 2016, Portugal have flattered to deceive this time around.