Despite Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard being injured, Belgium ended Portugal’s European Championship defense in Seville with a 1-0 win.
Thorgan Hazard’s long-range strike helped Belgium to a quarter-final tie against in-form Italy despite both sides facing a challenging journey to Euro 2020 glory.
A goal of such merit deserved to settle a game of few chances, but De Bruyne’s substitution early in the second half, as well as Eden Hazard’s departure, will worry Roberto Martinez.
It was not to Portugal’s advantage and they paid the price for a third place finish in Group F.
Belgium opened the scoring in the 42nd minute, despite a tense finale.
Thibaut Courtois saved from Cristiano Ronaldo before Thorgan Hazard opened scoring for Belgium by launching a 25-yard rocket beyond Rui Patricio, the ball slipping away from Rui Patricio as he flailed in the air.
De Bruyne was substituted soon after 45 minutes following Joao Palhinha’s challenge on him, but Portugal failed to respond until Brazil’s Bruno Fernandes and tournament debutant Joao Felix were introduced.
After Ronaldo set Jota up with a cross, Joao Felix met Renato Sanches’ cross, only to head into Courtois’ reach.
Ruben Dias headed straight at Courtois in a tense affair, and Raphael Guerreiro struck the post, tantalizingly close to forcing extra time.
What does it mean? Belgium win but lose star power
Only Hazard, Eden, Romelu Lukaku and De Bruyne stood out for Belgium besides Hazard’s dazzling performance. It proved enough on this occasion.
Martinez will hope to have his two best players available for the knockout stages against Italy next.
In 134 minutes, Kevin De Bruyne created a tournament-high 10 chances, while Eden Hazard won 19 duels and won four fouls, proving a key outlet for his team.
Hero Hazard helps out
With a memorable hit, Hazard also contributed to Belgium’s victory.
When playing behind Eden, he made five tackles, three clearances and also intercepted the ball.
No new Ronaldo record
Ronaldo will reach 110 in the near future, pulling clear of Iran’s Ali Daei, but he did not reach it on this night.
It was difficult to imagine him adding to his tally of five goals, even though he could still win the Golden Boot. His best free kick was from a long distance.
Portugal and Ronaldo will watch the game from home on Friday, as Belgium takes on Italy in Munich.