Thorgan Hazard doesn’t have the glittering past of his brother Eden, and neither do the stripes. His brother is the captain and plays a starter for reasons that do not seem strictly football. But it was Thorgan who rescued a heavy-footed Belgium against a lighter Portugal .
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder struck down Rui Patricio, the Portuguese goalkeeper, about to conclude the first half and gave the wings that Roberto Martínez’s team needed to take off towards the quarter-finals. Italy awaits you.
Hazard’s goal, who tried his luck from outside the area and got a bullet with a curve that opened the goalkeeper, more than generously rewarded the cautious staging of the Belgians. Martínez’s team occupies the first place in the FIFA rankings, but it did not seem so in the Cartuja, in the clash with the most poster of these round of 16.
Reigning champion Portugal held off all the stars, De Bruyne, Lukaku , Madrid’s decaffeinated Hazard, and sought to open cracks, especially in the throbbing final stretch. No effectiveness.
De Bruyne, jinxed
The Belgian is a team called one day to be crowned on the back of this brilliant generation of glittering names, who have reached at least the quarter-finals in the last four major nations tournaments. Balaguer’s coach said it one of these days. “I feel that this generation needs laurels. They deserve to win something that will be remembered in 60 or 70 years. It does not mean, of course, that it will happen.”
This Sunday it really seemed like a selection of secondary challenges, satisfied to play with their coat on, without the will to even ruffle their backlash. Lukaku was off and De Bruyne, as in the Champions League final, had to retire in the middle of the battle injured again. The extraordinary City player is gafado. Let’s see what the medical part says and if he can continue in this Eurocup.
Portugal, no luck
Portugal seized the ball without excessive resistance from the Belgians, delighted to see them coming. Courtois contributed to this, providing security and had to exercise his reflexes on a couple of occasions, a shot from Cristiano and a point-blank header from Ruben Dias . This second occurred when the Portuguese had to play with one less footballer. Pepe had one of his famous cable crossovers that the referee, strangely, lowered to a yellow card.
The Portuguese were close to an equalizer, but the last pass or the last shot failed them. One of them, a whip from Guerreiro, crashed into the pole. Belgium was lucky when it needed it. It was a tachycardic victory, but a victory in the end, Martinez’s 47th in his 60 games as Belgian coach. He knows as all of Belgium knows that they will need better performance to beat Italy on Friday.
The data sheet BELGIUM : Courtois (8); Meunier (7), Alderweireld (6), Vermaelen (7), Vertonghen (6), Tielemans (5); Witsel (6), T. Hazard (8), De Bruyne (5), E. Hazard (5), Lukaku (5).
Technician : Roberto Martínez (6).
Changes : Mertens (5) for De Bruyne (d. 48); Carrasco (sc) by E. Hazard (m. 87); Dendoncker (sc) by T. Hazard (d. 90).
PORTUGAL : Rui Patricio (4); Dalot (6), Pepe (5), Dias (6), Guerreiro (6); Moutinho (5), Palhinha (6); Renato Sanches (7), B. Silva (4), C. Ronaldo (6); Diogo Jota (5).
Technician : Fernando Santos (6).
Changes : Joao Felix (6) for Moutinho (m. 55); B. Fernandes (5) by Silva (d. 55); Andre Silva (6) for Jota (m. 70); Pereira (sc) by Palhinha (m. 78); Oliveira (sc) by Sanches (m. 79).
GOALS : 1-0 (m. 42), Thorgan Hazard.