The round of 16 clash between Belgium and Portugal was potentially one of the encounters of the tournament. On one hand, you had the world number 1 team filled with world class players. On the other hand, you had the reigning champions of the tournament who had a point to prove after their 4-2 loss against Germany.
Belgium fielded a slightly defensive line-up with Kevin de Bruyne partnering Eden Hazard in the space behind Romelu Lukaku. With Axel Witsel and Youri Tielemans, the Manchester City midfielder was given the freedom to operate in the final third.
The main talking point about the Portugal line-up was the omission of Bruno Fernandes once again. Renato Sanches kept his place in the side after a few positive displays, while Joao Palhinha was given a rare stint in the starting line-up.
The game was very frenetic in the first 10-15 minutes with proper end to end stuff. None of the teams were ready to let the other team attack and it setup the match beautifully. Diogo Jota had the best chance of the early knockings but the Liverpool striker shot the ball wide. Just a few minutes before half time, Thorgan Hazard gave Belgium the lead after a brilliant swerving shot from outside the box beat Rui Patricio. This was nothing more than a half chance but the Belgium wing back made full use of it.
The second half was much more positive from Portugal. They had numerous opportunities to score the equaliser. Fernando Santos introduced the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix and Andre Silva in a bid to draw level. While the first half was pretty even in terms of possession and shots, the second half was dominated by Portugal. They had 23 shots compared to Belgium’s 6 during the course of the 90 minutes.
Portugal hit the post on two occasions but couldn’t score a goal. They deserved to take the match to extra time due to their performance in the second half but the ball just wouldn’t go past Thibaut Courtois. With that win, Belgium booked a place in the quarter finals where they will face Italy.