In beating Ronaldo’s Portugal on Sunday night, Belgium prove they’re more than just goals — they have some grit, too.
It’s not often this Belgium team, with all their attacking talent, are restricted to just one shot on target. Portugal managed it, but unfortunately for the reigning European champions, Thorgan Hazard’s effort flew into the net and their tournament is over.
Belgium’s golden generation move on to face Italy in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals following their 1-0 win on Sunday, but only just. Progress also came at a cost after both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard were forced off with injuries during a frantic second half that could not have been more different from a largely cautious first 45 minutes.
It’s usually the holy trinity of De Bruyne, Hazard and Romelu Lukaku that win Belgium games, but this time it was down to a back three of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Thomas Vermaelen with a combined age of 101. On a heavy pitch at Estadio Olimpico de la Cartuja in Seville, Spain, they kept Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. at bay, and in the end, one shot on target was all that was needed for the No. 1-ranked side in the world.
At the final whistle, Ronaldo threw down his captain’s armband in frustration. He is set to continue his international career through the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but he’ll be 39 by the time the next Euros is played in Germany, and this could be the last time we see him on this particular stage. He played his part at Euro 2020, scoring five goals and equaling Ali Daei’s record for the most goals in men’s international history (109), but Belgium never allowed him that one golden chance.