THE KEY MATCHUPS TO WATCH OUT FOR AS BELGIUM TAKE ON PORTUGAL IN THE ROUND-OF-16
The round-of-16 clashes of Euro 2020 are now upon us. After a frenetic end to the group stage last night, the teams now turn their focus to the knockouts. One of the most hyped ties of this round is surely going to be the world’s number one ranked team Belgium taking on Portugal led by the highest scorer in men’s football.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) June 23, 2021
The defending champions have not found top gear yet, while the Red Devils sport an unblemished record. FootTheBall takes you through the key match-ups that are likely to decide the fate of this encounter.
CRISTIANO RONALDO VS THE BELGIAN DEFENCE
When one player worries the entirety of the opposition’s back-line, he cannot be your average Joe. Ronaldo has proved once again why he is the most feared attacker in the European game right now. His five goals and one assist see him lead the Golden Boot race, while he just equalled Iranian legend Ali Daei’s record of 109 goals at the international level last night.
🇵🇹 Cristiano Ronaldo = Portugal legend 💪
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 23, 2021
Against Germany, he raced from his own penalty box to the other in less than 15 seconds to score the opener, emphasizing that he has not lost any pace at 36-years-old. Facing him will the back three of the Red Devils, who to be fair, have not been really tested yet due to their relatively comfortable wins.
🥴 Outfield players to commit an error leading to an opposition goal at #EURO2020
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 20, 2021
Russia and Finland hardly posed a threat while Jason Denayer’s mistake gifted Denmark the lead in their second group game. They will need to be on their best game if they are to contain Ronaldo in this encounter, while also having to be wary of his passing. Indeed, the entire front-line of Portugal is working smoothly as a unit which will need to be shut down quickly.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE VS RENATO SANCHES
It speaks volumes of a player who has already racked up one goal and two assists in 135 minutes of football. De Bruyne, who missed the first game, showed his class in the second game against the Danes. Coming on at halftime, he assisted the leveller before scoring the winner himself.
👑 He has claimed the WhoScored Man of the Match award in both of his appearances at the tournament
😯 Don't forget he is still recovering from a fractured cheekbone! pic.twitter.com/3OWLwmTOBJ
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 24, 2021
His linkup play with Romelu Lukaku combined with his visionary passing and ability to get free is one of the major partnerships at the Euros, and he will need to be marked well if Portugal are to qualify. On the other side, there will be Renato Sanches who will no doubt be brimming with confidence after his performance against France. Portugal are not getting enough from their creative midfielders and Sanches will be tasked with providing that extra flair on the pitch.
Renato Sanches’ first half vs. France by numbers:
96% pass accuracy
70% duels won
4 passes into the final third
4 attempted tackles
3 successful tackles
2 attempted take-ons
2 successful take-ons
2 fouls won
Proving his quality on the world stage. 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/qzHmlq9G5J
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 23, 2021
After the benching of Bruno Fernandes last night, it seems a sure shot sign the Lille midfielder will be the main weapon deployed by Santos to make the lives of their forwards easier. If Sanches can dominate this battle, Portugal will be much relieved in the middle of the park.
ROMELU LUKAKU VS RUBEN DIAS
A fascinating clash that is more important than many realize. Lukaku has developed into an absolute beast over the past two seasons with Inter Milan, picking up Serie A MVP in 2020-21. He has three goals already at the tournament but it is his overall play that has garnered the most awe.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 21, 2021
The ability to hold up the ball with his strength, beat defenders with pace one-on-one and an unerring eye for goal has all catapulted him as an elite all-round striker. He will be the main focal point of Belgium’s attack and it will be the duty of Premier League Player of the Year Ruben Dias to make his job difficult. Dias has not had the best of starts with Portugal at Euro 2020.
Será sempre um orgulho enorme representar este país! Continuamos o nosso caminho e agr mais que nunca, todos com a mesma mentalidade. Passo a passo! 👊🏼🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/ItEnnAIiI7
— Rúben Dias (@rubendias) June 24, 2021
After a strong showing against Hungary, he scored an own goal against Germany as well as losing two duels and having just 49 accurate passes (against Hungary, he had 90). Though he put in a solid, if unremarkable performance last night, the Selecao’s defence was breached twice with Dias winning zero duels. Supported by Pepe, the Man City defender will have a major job on his hands this time.