Friday, October 22

Belgium overthrows champion | Soccer Eurocup 2021

Belgium players celebrate their goal under the gaze of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Belgium players celebrate their goal under the gaze of Cristiano Ronaldo.Alejandro Ruesga / THE COUNTRY

The most practical version of Belgium overthrew the champion Portugal, who fell on her feet, seeking until the end the draw in an almost heroic exercise, which she could not consummate due to the good defense of her rival, the bad luck of a shot at the post. Guerreiro and the excessive anxiety of his attackers. Belgium gets into the quarterfinals and showed a trade worthy of a great competitor, which perhaps Portugal itself showed in the last edition. It was not a very brilliant Belgium, but it was quite organized, which took tremendous fruit from Thorgan Hazard’s goal and accumulated its fourth consecutive presence among the top eight of a great national tournament. It was Ceulemans, in 1989, one of the protagonists of Belgium’s last triumph over Portugal. In 2021, in Seville, the Belgians broke the curse. Italy is already waiting for them in the quarterfinals.

It had taken 98 years for Portugal to play a game again in Seville. The current champion officially dodged the group of death to face Belgium, one of the favorites, who arrived at La Cartuja after completing the group stage. At the moment of truth, perhaps too soon, the tournament produced a match with overtones even at the end. Two teams with plenty of football, players and coaches to fight high-caliber battles. In the face of so much expectation, a certain disappointment floated. Portugal has an innate rennet to compete, but sometimes it disguises that quality with an excess of conservatism. Belgium was infected with him, less cheerful than on other occasions, well positioned with a double pivot in the return of Witsel and with great fear of losing the ball before the undoubted mastery of Portugal on the counterattack.

Nor did the actors want to skip the established script. Only Renato Sanches, with his outbursts of fury, put some sauce on a game where there was a lot of fear of error. Deprived of their ability to face, too corseted by their technicians, the footballers were conservative. In that control football, Portugal moves better. Jota had it six minutes after Renato’s first demarraje and then Cristiano, very well guarded, launched a foul with a certain malice that Courtois cleared. The most discreet version of Belgium warned in a shot with the outside of Meunier while Lukaku, without spaces to run, insistently asked for the ball. Roberto Martínez’s team, however, had already been able to run on a couple of occasions, an oasis in thick football where De Bruyne finally appeared.

The game was generous with the Belgians. On the edge of the break, Rui Patricio swallowed Thorgan Hazard’s shot. His brother, the captain and star of Madrid, had a gray first half.

There was no time for speculation in the second half. Portugal rebelled against the scoreboard and the conservatism that tied him previously. Fernando Santos put one forward after another on the field and the crash became a delight. Cristiano and Renato Sanches took command, while Belgium threw himself into the arms of Eden Hazard, who was resurrected after De Bruyne’s injury and eventually withdrew touched from the hamstrings. Jota had it, João Felix finished with a header and Portugal showed the quality that accompanies the champion. Belgium, with trade, clinging to a great Tielemans, was looking for the definitive counterattack to tie up the quarters.

Portugal insisted and insisted, with a cast of players of enormous quality from midfield onwards, in the case of Cristiano, Bruno Fernandes, André Silva and João Felix. Belgium was unable to get the ball, supported by Courtois, who took a shot from Rúben Dias. He could do nothing before a shot by Guerreiro with his right that ended up in the left post of his goal. The match was going to the champion, unable, of course, to deliver the scepter without giving everything, bursting the pulsations of her people in La Cartuja and the whole country with a commendable effort in search of a tie. It did not arrive. The champion surrendered her weapons to Belgium.

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