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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Thorgan Hazard rocket fires Belgium past holders Portugal into last eight

Upsetting Ronaldo and his team at the Estadio Olimpico in Seville, Belgium have now set the stage for an exciting quarter-final clash against Italy.

Written by Ahaan Bhansali |
Updated: June 28, 2021 2:51:22 pm
Belgium's Thorgan Hazard celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates (Source: Reuters)

Favourites Belgium knocked out defending champions, Portugal, in the UEFA Euro Cup Round of 16 matchup late Monday evening. Upsetting Ronaldo and his team at the Estadio Olimpico in Seville, Belgium have now set the stage for an exciting quarter-final clash against Italy. Here are some key moments from the game:

Ronaldo fires

The 25th minute saw Portugal win a freekick in a dangerous area and of course, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to take it in the hopes of establishing a lead for his side. The game had seen few attempts on goal until this point, and both teams were struggling to find an opening. Ronaldo struck the ball towards the Belgian goal, only to be stopped by Courtois, who just about picked up the swerving ball that seemed to be on its way in.

Roarin’ Thorgan- a real Hazard for Portugal

With good pressure from Portugal throughout the first half, a Belgian screamer just minutes before half time took everyone by surprise, including Portugal’s Rui Patricio. The defending champions had made a threatening run towards the opposition’s goal just seconds earlier, but a beautiful counter-attack from Belgium put them ahead of Portugal within the first 45 minutes. Thorgan Hazard, Belgium’s 28 year old midfielder, struck the ball powerfully from outside the penalty box, and it swerved past Patricio into the back of Portugal’s net. Patricio didn’t move at all, confusedly watching Hazard’s thunderous strike ripple past him, as Belgium inched one step closer to eliminating the defending champions.

Action

Football aside, the second half saw the game getting real feisty. There were some harsh challenges from both sides, and German referee Felix Brych demonstrated his expertise through several decisions that kept the match on track. To nobody’s surprise, one of these challenges came from Pepe, who knocked Thorgan Hazard to the ground in the 77th minute. Belgian players charged towards Pepe, and an intense stare-off between Pepe and Lukaku seemed to be the most entertaining moment of the second half. Pepe was booked with a yellow, but that foul was certainly an intense one.

Portugal is denied

In a desperate attempt to pull off an equalizer, Portugal stepped up their attacking game throughout the second half. However, they just couldn’t infiltrate Belgium’s line of defence, and a powerful header from Ruben Dias seemed to be the closest they could get to a shot on target. Ruben Dias headed the ball from a curling corner in the 82nd minute, sending it straight towards Belgium’s goal. However, it had no direction to it, and was fired right at Courtois, who immediately reacted, blocking Portugal’s attempt. Courtois’s block matched the ball coming in towards him; he slammed it out of the box with ferocity and speed, reacting to Ruben Dias’s header within seconds, and keeping Belgium clear of a late equalizer from Portugal.

Guerreiro grills Belgium

A minute later, in the 83rd, Portugal came even closer to their much needed equalizer. Raphael Guerreiro hammered the ball towards Belgium’s goal, and it seemed to be sneaking in, only to hit the post and spin off in the opposite direction. Portugal couldn’t have been more unfortunate! They had been pressing Belgium for most of the second half, and Guerreiro’s attempt seemed to be the last straw they were pulling at. A Belgian counter-attack seconds after Guerreiro’s scare almost materialized into something, but was eventually cut short by Portugal’s defenders.

With that thriller, the world’s number one ranked side lived up to their name, eliminating the reigning European Championship winners. The question as to whether they can bring the Euro Cup home, however, is yet to be answered.

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