Belgium recently met Portugal in the Round of 16 stage of the European Championships. The Red Devils not only won the match and booked their quarter-final tickets, they also ended Portugal’s reign as European Champions.
Belgium went ahead in the match thanks to an outrageous strike from Thorgan Hazard just before half-time. In the second half, they survived waves after waves of Portuguese attacks and also had to deal with the loss of stars Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard due to injury.
Despite the setbacks, the Red Devils held their ground and refused to allow Portugal any chance of a comeback. After the bruising last-16 encounter, Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez was full of praise for his side’s mental faculties. The blockbuster game not only highlighted Belgium’s attacking prowess but also showed their strong ability to shut shop and grind out wins.
“It wasn’t just about how good we can be but how we could adapt to what Portugal do best: They do exactly what they need to win – that’s why they are the current European champions. They know how to take those moments that can hurt you, but I think we had incredible concentration and defended really well,” a beaming Martinez told the post-match news conference.
“We played a really good game in the first half, controlling and scoring a very good goal,” he added.
Belgium and Portugal matched each other blow for blow in the first half and created several half-chances. However, Thorgan Hazard seized the occasion with a long-range bullet strike from several yards out that left Portugal’s Rui Patricio stunned in goal.
They then decided to dig deep and ride out the torrents of attack in the second-half. Belgium’s defensive display stood out as impressive and Martinez was proud of his side’s ‘incredible mentality’ in the second half.
“But then in the second half, more of the momentum went to Portugal and we had to show an incredible mentality. It was about those aspects of being disciplined, very tactically astute and we never lost concentration.
“There were difficult moments as Portugal tried to get back in the closing minutes, but this result gives me an incredible satisfaction because this is what a winning team needs.
“We all know the talent we have and the good football we can play, but today we showed all the other elements also needed. As a coach I couldn’t be prouder,” the Belgium head coach concluded.