Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted dethroned European champions Portugal will return stronger following their defeat to Belgium.

Portugal's title defence was ended by a Thorgan Hazard strike on Sunday as Fernando Santos' side fell to a 1-0 loss in the last-16 tie. 

The Selecao won just one of their four Euro 2020 matches, which is their fewest in a single European Championship tournament since their first appearance in 1984 (also one win).

The 23 shots recorded by Portugal against Belgium is the highest tally for a team at Euro 2020 without scoring, with Ronaldo responsible for four of those attempts.

Despite his side's disappointing exit in the first knockout round, Juventus star Ronaldo is proud of his team-mates and is predicting a bright future for the Euro 2016 and Nations League 2019 winners.

"We didn't get the result we wanted and we left the race sooner than we wanted," he posted on his official Instagram page. 

"But we are proud of our journey. We gave everything to renew the title of European Champions and this group proved that it can still give much joy to the Portuguese.

"Our fans were tireless in supporting the team from start to finish. We ran and fought for them, in order to live up to the trust they placed in us. 

"It was not possible to get where we all wanted, but here is our sincere and profound thanks.

"Congratulations to Belgium and good luck to all the teams that remain in the competition. As for us, we will come back stronger."

 

Portugal's exit means Ronaldo will have to wait at least another three months before he can surpass Ali Daei as the outright top international goalscorer of all time.

However, the Juve forward's five goals – coming from 15 shots – could yet see him end as the top scorer at Euro 2020.

Santos' side are back in action in September with a World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, while Belgium will face Italy on Friday for a Euro 2020 semi-final spot.

Eden Hazard fears he suffered a serious hamstring injury after Belgium eliminated defending champions Portugal in the Euro 2020 last 16 as Roberto Martinez also awaits news on star Kevin De Bruyne.

Belgium ousted Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal 1-0 en route to the quarter-finals on Sunday but it may have come at a cost, with Hazard and De Bruyne both hobbling off in Seville.

Thorgan Hazard's stunning long-range strike set up a showdown with in-form Italy, however, it was overshadowed by brother Eden Hazard, who clutched his hamstring as he left the field late in the match after De Bruyne succumbed to an ankle problem early in the second half.

Afterwards, Eden Hazard – who has been hampered by injuries since joining Real Madrid in 2019 – told reporters: "I hurt myself, I felt something in the hamstring.

I think I have something, we'll see tomorrow. We will analyse the injury well, we will see the extent afterwards.

"As captain, I will stay with the group because I have an important role to play."

Thorgan Hazard said: "I hope it's not a big injury but it doesn't look so good. The medical staff in Belgium is very good so we hope everything will be ok for the rest of the tournament. Also for Kevin because we need these two players to go forward."

Joao Palhinha's challenge on De Bruyne in the 45th minute saw the Belgium star substituted shortly after the restart, as head coach Martinez added: "We will take 48 hours now to assess the situation of the two players.

"We go back to Belgium now and they will have scans on the injuries tomorrow.

"It's too early to say how they are doing. With Kevin, it's the ankle -- he couldn't really turn in the second half. With Eden it's the muscle, but we have to wait for a diagnosis."

Belgium claimed their first win over Portugal since September 1989 (3-0 in a World Cup qualifier) – ending a run of five meetings without a victory against them (D2 L3).

The Red Devils also equalled their longest winning streak at major tournaments, winning five in a row for the second time (both under Martinez). Belgium have won 10 of their 11 games across the World Cup and European Championships since the Spaniard took charge.

"We had incredible concentration and defended really well," said Martinez. "We scored a very good goal. In the second half the more the momentum went to Portugal we had to show an incredible mentality. Everything was about being disciplined and tactically astute.

"We never lost concentration and there were difficult moments. The way Portugal pushed for victory until the end, this gives me incredible satisfaction.

"This is what a winning team needs. We know the talent we have but all the other elements you need were shown today. For us it was the biggest test there is."

Belgium have scored six goals from outside the box in the last two European Championships (2016 and 2020); at least twice as many as any other team in this period.

Thorgan Hazard was the fifth different Belgian player to score from outside the box in the competition since 2016, along with Radja Nainggolan (two), De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

Belgium's Thorgan Hazard netted in consecutive games for the country for the first time, while he has now scored four international goals since his brother Eden last scored for the national team.

"I think the trajectory was a little bit weird for the goalkeeper," Thorgan Hazard said after his goal was compared to Ronaldo. "I tried my luck.

"In these matches, if you have an opportunity or you have a chance, you always have to try and with a little bit of luck, it went it. Especially as this was a qualifying goal so it’s a dream." 

Fernando Santos could not question Portugal's effort as he revealed some players were in tears after losing to Belgium at Euro 2020.

Portugal were reigning European champions having stunned France in Euro 2016 and an exciting squad hinted at another challenge over the coming weeks.

But a draw with France in their final Group F match saw Santos' side condemned to a last-16 clash with the world's top-ranked team.

Thorgan Hazard was the matchwinner for Belgium, his spectacular strike enough for a 1-0 success – their first against Portugal since 1989.

This was despite Portugal attempting 23 shots – worth 1.7 expected goals (xG) – to the Red Devils' six (0.2 xG).

"We are disappointed and sad," Santos told TVI24. "I've got some players crying in the dressing room. They gave everything.

 

"A defeat is a defeat. I honestly don't have many words to say right now. We all wanted it and we believed in it.

"We had confidence and we were convinced that we could reach the final and win. There is no justice or injustice, we conceded a goal and we could not score."

The coach added: "The players did everything. They gave them what they had and there's nothing to point to them.

"They were tired but found energy to overcome the gap in rest between the teams. But that's no good now, it's just talk."

Joao Palhinha made his first senior international start in the middle of midfield, completing 94.6 per cent of his passes and making a game-high six tackles.

"We have to raise our heads, see what we can improve," he told RTP. "Obviously this does not represent the value of this team.

"We really missed the lucky moment, that was the definition of this game. It is with great misfortune that we leave here with this result."

Belgium and the Czech Republic booked their spots in the last eight of Euro 2020 on Sunday. 

The Red Devils' starting XI against Portugal had an average age of 30 years and 148 days – the oldest named by any of the remaining teams in the competition – and that experience seemingly paid off as they produced a stubborn display to edge past Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. 1-0. 

In the other game, the Czech Republic took full advantage of Matthijs de Ligt's red card early in the second half to seal a shock 2-0 win over the Netherlands. 

Stats Perform looks at the best stats from another absorbing day of action in Euro 2020.

Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Hazard strike seals Red Devils' progress

The Red Devils booked their place in the last eight with their first victory over Portugal since September 1989 (3-0 in a World Cup qualifier), ending a run of five meetings without a win against them.

The winning goal came from Thorgan Hazard in the first half, the Borussia Dortmund man scoring in consecutive games for his country for the first time.

He has also now scored four international goals since his brother, Eden, last scored for the national team, highlighting the older sibling's recent difficulties.

That goal ensured Roberto Martinez's side equalled their longest winning streak at major tournaments, sealing five victories in a row for the second time. Indeed, the Red Devils have won 10 of their 11 games across the World Cup and European Championship since Martinez took charge.

Portugal, meanwhile, will go away and lick their wounds after being eliminated with just one victory from their four games (D1 L2), their fewest in a single European Championship since their first appearance in 1984, when they also won one of four (D2 L1).

It should perhaps come as little surprise they were unable to bounce back from Hazard's goal. Since Euro 2004, they have only fought back to win in one of their 10 games in the competition when they have conceded the opening goal (D3 L6).

Netherlands 0-2 Czech Republic: De Ligt's dismissal proves costly

Frank de Boer's men became the first side to win 100 per cent of their group stage games before losing in 90 minutes in the first knockout round at a European Championship.

They can scarcely have any complaints either, given they failed to have a single shot on target in a European Championship and World Cup game for the first time since Opta records begin (1980). 

Their hopes suffered a blow in the 55th minute when De Ligt became the first player to be sent off at the European Championship for the Netherlands since John Heitinga in 2004 (also versus the Czech Republic). De Ligt (21y 319d) is now the fourth-youngest player to receive a red card in the tournament.

 

The Czech Republic took full advantage of his dismissal, winning their first game in the knockout stages of a major competition since Euro 2004 thanks to goals from Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick. 

Holes became the first Czech player to both score and assist in a single match at the European Championship since Jan Koller and Milan Baros also did so against the Netherlands at Euro 2004.

Schick's goal, meanwhile, was his fourth in four games at Euro 2020, with only Baros (five) now having scored more major tournament goals for the Czech Republic.

For years, Belgium's 'golden generation' has promised much but never quite lived up to its potential – in arguably their last opportunity for success, they are primed to give it all they have.

The one area of Roberto Martinez's team that would cause most supporters concern would be their aging backline, but in the face of sheer desperation and an attack brimming with quality, they stood firm in Seville to see off Cristiano Ronaldo and defending European champions Portugal 1-0 on Sunday.

It was a performance that brought further credence to the growing idea that pragmatism rules on the international stage, with Belgium making the most of a wonderstrike and then offering little threat themselves at the other end.

A gauntlet was laid down to Portugal and, despite boasting a squad far superior to the one they possessed five years ago, Fernando Santos was seemingly unable to harness that greater collective talent.

That's not to say Portugal have been great entertainers since winning Euro 2016. No, in fact pragmatism and even dull football have almost been a staple under Santos, and this was very much the case during the opening 45 minutes in Seville, with Belgium's difficulty in breaking down a typically rigid defence notable.

Though Romelu Lukaku's efforts at least kept the Portugal backline busy.

The occasion was perhaps understandably billed as Lukaku v Cristiano Ronaldo, though it was hardly a shootout between the pair as some might've hoped.

Instead, they were forced to graft in what was something of a slog, and that suited Lukaku a little more than it did record-chasing Ronaldo.

 

The Inter star was first a nuisance in the 10th minute as he brilliantly used his frame to block Ruben Dias and tee up Eden Hazard on the edge of the box, though his subsequent shot was sliced horribly high.

Later, in a move that highlighted his flexibility as much as his raw power, Lukaku surged through the middle as he led a break, impressively holding off Joao Palhinha, who desperately tried to foul him. Fortunately for Portugal, Lukaku's eventual pass was cut out and referee Felix Brych bizarrely opted against bringing the play back when Belgium failed to take full advantage.

But soon after, Lukaku's somewhat under-appreciated role took centre-stage once more, as he again bullied Dias on the edge of Portugal's box to sustain an attack, and just a few seconds later it was 1-0.

Thorgan Hazard, for much of his career often seen simply as "Eden's brother", took the game by the scruff of the neck, as he blasted past Rui Patricio from 25 yards.

That put him ahead of Eden for total Euros goals, his two coming in just three appearances. The older brother has one in nine games.

It was a moment of beauty somewhat out of keeping from the rest of a first half in which the majority of the highlights revolved around displays of physicality.

The goal arriving so close to half-time at least allowed Portugal a chance to regroup and potentially alter their system to be more aggressive in attack, which, in fairness, they were as Santos' men managed 15 shots compared to eight in the first period.

Portugal were on the front foot for most of the second half, their first proper chance coming shortly after a couple of attack-minded substitutions – Ronaldo did well on the right, drifting in and finding Diogo Jota in the box, only for him to blaze over.

The Selecao really upped the ante in the final 15 minutes, purely out of desperation.

Dias saw a goal-bound headed pushed away by Thibaut Courtois, before Raphael Guerreiro linked up with Ronaldo and saw a right-footed effort come back off the post.

At the other end Lukaku continued to be a vital outlet for Belgium. While chances were difficult to come by, his lung-busting runs relieved the pressure on several occasions, buying the Red Devils a little extra time.

But for all of Portugal's incessant pressure, keeping alive their dream of retaining the crown wasn't to be.

It wasn't a wasted couple of weeks for Ronaldo at least, the all-time great taking several more records.

He leaves Euro 2020 as the top-scorer in European Championship history with 14 goals and the top-scoring European player at major international tournaments with 21.

But the last one, the biggest record of them all is out of reach for the time being, with Ronaldo left tied on 109 international goals with Ali Daei.

While Lukaku still has some way to go to matching the exploits of his Serie A rival, Rom v Ron went the Belgian's way, and if he continues to produce similarly selfless displays over the next couple of weeks, he could well inspire the 'golden generation' to their defining achievement.

Belgium ended Portugal's European Championship defence with a 1-0 win in Seville, despite losing Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to injuries in the last-16 clash.

With both sides facing a daunting route to Euro 2020 glory, it was Belgium who emerged to reach a quarter-final tie against in-form Italy thanks to Thorgan Hazard's long-range strike.

It was a goal that deserved to settle a game of few chances, although De Bruyne's substitution early in the second half will concern Roberto Martinez, as will Eden Hazard’s departure late in the match.

Portugal could not capitalise and paid the price for a third-placed Group F finish that condemned them to this side of the draw.

At odds with a tense finale, opportunities were few and far between prior to Belgium's spectacular 42nd-minute opener.

Portugal's Diogo Jota dragged wide and Thibaut Courtois parried a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick – his first sight at a record-breaking 110th international goal – before Thorgan Hazard blasted beyond Rui Patricio from 25 yards, the ball fading away from a flailing goalkeeper.
 
Joao Palhinha's challenge on De Bruyne in the 45th minute saw the Belgium midfielder substituted shortly after the restart, but Portugal did not respond until the introduction of Bruno Fernandes and tournament debutant Joao Felix.

Ronaldo teed up Jota to flash a strike over and Joao Felix got up to meet Renato Sanches' cross, only to head into Courtois' arms.

An ill-tempered affair threatened to tick by without Portugal seriously threatening an equaliser, but Ruben Dias headed straight at Courtois and Raphael Guerreiro struck the post, agonisingly close to forcing extra time.

 

What does it mean? Belgium win but lose star power

Belgium showed little besides the moment of magic from Hazard, an unlikely hero alongside De Bruyne, brother Eden and Romelu Lukaku. It proved enough on this occasion.

But when facing Italy next, Martinez will hope to have De Bruyne and Eden Hazard available to make their own special contribution to the knockout rounds.

De Bruyne has created a tournament-high 10 chances in just 134 minutes, while Eden Hazard contested 19 duels and won four fouls in this match, providing a vital outlet for his side.

Hero Hazard helps out

Thorgan Hazard's hit was one to remember, but he also played a key role in protecting Belgium's narrow lead.

The wing-back made five tackles, three clearances and also an interception when playing behind Eden.

No new Ronaldo record

It is surely a case of when not if Ronaldo reaches that magical number of 110, pulling clear of Iran great Ali Daei, but this was not his night.

Although five goals may still be enough to earn the Golden Boot, the forward scarcely looked like adding to that tally. He had four attempts but his best was a long-range free-kick.

What's next?

Belgium head to Munich on Friday to face Italy, with Ronaldo and Portugal watching on from home.

Kevin De Bruyne exited Belgium's Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Portugal due to injury on Sunday.

The Manchester City midfielder's involvement in the Euros was delayed due to facial fractures sustained in the Champions League final.

De Bruyne had subsequently starred as Belgium eased through the group stage, however, assisting one and scoring another in a comeback win over Denmark, before laying on a further assist against Finland.

But he lasted just 48 minutes of the knockout game against Portugal in Seville.

Joao Palhinha had been booked just before half-time for a challenge on De Bruyne from behind, and the felled star soon found he could not continue in the second period.

Red Devils coach Roberto Martinez took no risk, quickly calling Dries Mertens on in De Bruyne's place.

Belgium would have to face in-form Italy if they advance, while world champions France are also in the same half of the draw – two opponents against whom they would not like to be without De Bruyne.

Belgium face holders Portugal in a mouthwatering Euro 2020 last-16 tie on Sunday and their star attacking midfielder is in ominous form.

Kevin De Bruyne began the Red Devils' group campaign on the sidelines as he recovered from facial injuries sustained during Manchester City's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.

“I don't feel anything on the left side, like after a visit to the dentist," he explained in a typically abrupt fashion.

But since being introduced as a half-time substitute with Belgium 1-0 down to Denmark in Copenhagen, the 29-year-old has unquestionably made his presence felt.

A brilliant assist and thumping winning goal saw the playmaker inspire a 2-1 win almost singlehandedly.

Belgium made it three wins from three thanks to a routine 2-0 triumph over Finland in their final Group B match, with De Bruyne laying on Romelu Lukaku's third goal of the tournament.

Despite only playing 134 minutes at Euro 2020, he has created five chances with an expected assists (xA) value of 1.18.

 

Bruno benched as holders struggle to find their feet

If this is a case of De Bruyne emphatically bringing his Premier League form onto the international stage, the same cannot yet be said of Bruno Fernandes.

Since his Manchester United debut on February 1 last year, Fernandes' 19 assists are the most supplied by any player in England's top fight. De Bruyne, with 17 assists having played 2,904 minutes to the Portugal international's 4,297, is the only other player to have recorded more than 15 over the same period.

The Manchester maestros also close out the top two in terms of chances created (De Bruyne 131, Fernandes 125), big chances created (De Bruyne 31, Fernandes 23) and chances created from open play (99 apiece) in this time.

 

Fernandes was in the starting line-up for Portugal's opener when they left it late to beat Hungary 3-0 in Group F, before being unable to avert a chastening 4-2 loss to Germany in Munich.

The former Sporting CP favourite was one of the victims as Fernando Santos shuffled his pack in response, only coming on as a late substitute in the 2-2 draw against France – his most notable contribution coming when he escaped punishment for an untidy challenge on Kingsley Coman in his own penalty area.

 

KDB running free

De Bruyne and Fernandes' contrasting contributions at Euro 2020 so far can by partly explained by the amount of freedom they are granted by their respective international bosses to recreate their club heroics.

"Kevin will have an influential role, the playmaker, linking possession," Martinez said a couple of days out from the showdown in Seville, with De Bruyne once again poised to leave a stamp on the game irrespective of starting position.

He replaced Dries Mertens against Denmark, nominally roving in the front three, before reverting to a central midfield position alongside Axel Witsel for a man-of-the-match showing versus Finland.

For City, the majority of De Bruyne's Premier League touches last season came in the middle third of the opposition half of the field, with 15.27 per cent in the middle of the left flank.

 

Within the far smaller sample size of his Belgium minutes at Euro 2020, the story is similar enough. Although he does not hit double-digit percentages across the middle attacking third as he does for City, 15.38 per cent of De Bruyne's Red Devils touches are in that favoured position - coming in from the left and able to see the full picture unfolding.

Fernandes' made 14.08 per cent of his United touches in the same area in 2020-21, with a comparable spread across the attacking midfield zones to De Bruyne.

By contrast, for Portugal at Euro 2020, there has been a huge concentration of Fernandes' touches on the right flank - 22.68 per on the right of the middle third of the opposition half, compared to just 4.12 per cent where he does the biggest chunk of his United work.

This suggests far less license to express himself than De Bruyne enjoys under Martinez and the on-field relationship each man has with their team's superstar goalscorer is somewhat wrapped up in all this.

 

KDB and Rom in sync, Bruno struggling to feed Ronaldo

The outcome of Sunday's match could have a huge bearing on the winner of the Golden Boot, although Cristiano Ronaldo's group-stage haul of five means he might have already done enough.

Lukaku is building on a fabulous couple of seasons at Inter and has three for Belgium so far, with the centre-forward seeming to come alive whenever De Bruyne is in close proximity.

A marginal offside call had already thwarted the De Bruyne-Lukaku link before Belgium's number seven and number nine combined to complete the scoring against Finland.

It is not a one-way relationship, either, with Lukaku holding up play expertly for De Bruyne to lay Thomas Meunier's equaliser on a plate in the Denmark match.

 

Of De Bruyne and Lukaku's seven combinations at Euro 2020 – when one of them has passed to the other – six have ended in the opposition penalty area, underling their considerable threat in tandem.

Fernandes and Ronaldo have passed to one another 15 times, but only two of these exchanges have ended in the area and neither yielded a goal.

Their combinations have also been uneven. Fernandes came on in the 72nd minute against France and he and Ronaldo each passed to the other once. They shared three in total despite being on the pitch for 89 minutes together versus Hungary.

Perhaps this speaks of the respective status of the two playmakers with their countries. Fernandes, 26, is in Ronaldo's shadow like the rest of his international team-mates, meaning the cajoling leader on show at Old Trafford is unlikely to be seen to the same extent. Much like his overall presence, his on-field contributions have shrunk.

 

De Bruyne is second to no one in the Belgium set-up, the shining light of a celebrated generation alongside Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

It means that, while they might compete as men of equal status in the next Manchester derby, De Bruyne will be the heartbeat of Belgium's bid for a quarter-final spot as Fernandes seeks to muscle in and make his own talents felt from the margins.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be the man in the spotlight on Sunday, but Roberto Martinez says Belgium cannot afford to focus only on the Portugal star. 

Ronaldo tied Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals with a pair of penalties against France to send Portugal into the knockout stage of the European Championship. 

Still, Martinez insists Ronaldo will get no special attention in their last-16 clash. 

"When you put a plan against a specific player, you can be hurt by other players," the Belgium head coach told a news conference. "The way that Portugal plays, they’ve got a lot of threat, they’ve got a lot of pace in behind.

"Of course Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be the player that gets the right moment, the right pass and the right chance, and you have to be always aware, but you have to defend the 10 outfield players of Portugal in the same measure.

"We need to be compact, we need to be really solid, and we need to defend as a team.

"Obviously we always think about the opposition and that’s always the case, you need to have that information, but I think we’ve got real good momentum and that’s where we’re concentrating."

Belgium conceded only one goal across their three wins in the group stage, but their prime reason for optimism may rest in Kevin De Bruyne's successful return. 

After his swift recovery from facial fractures suffered in the Champions League final, the Manchester City star played nearly the entire game against Denmark after scoring in his return to action as a half-time substitute against Denmark. 

"Kevin, it’s been great to be able to see him 45 minutes and then almost the 90 minutes, so I feel that he is in the perfect physical condition to go into this game," Martinez said. 

"Kevin will have the normal role, an influential role. He’s not a player that needs to play in a certain position. We need to give him that opportunity to be the play-maker, to be able to link up to that possession that we have.

"We will have to be patient against a really good, resolute, and well-defensive-structured Portugal team, but I think we’re going to see ourselves doing what we always do."

Joao Moutinho urged his Portugal team-mates not to go overboard trying to stop Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne in their Euro 2020 last-16 tie on Sunday.

De Bruyne has lit up Belgium's last two performances having missed their opening game in Group B match against Russia with the facial injury he picked up in the Champions League final.

A brilliant assist and winning goal saw the Manchester City playmaker inspire Roberto Martinez's side to a 2-1 win over Denmark having come off the bench at half-time.

Belgium made it three consecutive wins after a 2-0 victory over Finland with De Bruyne laying on Romelu Lukaku's third goal of the tournament.

De Bruyne has only played 134 minutes at Euro 2020 and has created five chances with an expected assists (xA) value of 1.18.

Since (and including) the 2014 World Cup, De Bruyne has created 71 chances in major tournaments (Euros and World Cup), more than any other European player in that time.

Moutinho will be one of those charged with stifling De Bruyne's influence, but warned about singling out the player for too much attention.

"Kevin is very competent, we have to be careful but not just focus on one player," Portugal midfielder Moutinho told a media conference.

 

"If he has space to play it's even more dangerous. But if all of them have space, they will play their game calmly and that will make our job difficult. 

"That would set the others free and that would be even worse. As a team we will try to minimise their strengths and put ours into practice, not only focus on De Bruyne.

"If the manager thinks I'm the player with the characteristics to face Belgium, I'll do that. Try to impose my experience and the pace of the game that interests us the most. 

"I'm available to give my best, that's what we all want to do, for the team to achieve its goals."

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has dubbed the match a "final" and acknowledged the defending champions must improve on their displays in the group stage.

"We know that we are going to have a competent opponent. I believe, I hope and I am convinced that we will be more competent," he said.

"To reach the final, this is the first final. What we have to do is not to give space. The team that defends better, knows how to manage the ball better and create opportunities, will win the game."

All eyes will be on Cristiano Ronaldo again on Sunday as he looks to become the outright world-record holder for international goals, though being out of the focus will do Portugal's opponents Belgium no harm.

The Juventus star tied Ali Daei's long-standing record of 109 goals with a pair of penalties in Portugal's thrilling 2-2 draw with France, the result ensuring the Selecao reached the knockout phase.

One more will put Ronaldo out in front, while he may also have designs on chasing down Michel Platini's record for the most goals scored in a single European Championship (nine in Euro 84).

But despite Ronaldo's five goals thus far, it has been by no means plain sailing for Portugal, whose four points was the poorest group-stage haul for a defending European champion since Greece in 2008 (zero).

 

Fernando Santos' men arguably could not have picked a stronger opponent to face next as they prepare to tussle with Belgium in Seville on Sunday, and while Portugal put their faith in Ronaldo, former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku is a similarly talismanic figure for Roberto Martinez.

"Going to Inter was the perfect move, at the perfect time, with a perfect coach, with a perfect dream of winning the Serie A title," Martinez told ESPN.

"I think that has developed Lukaku to a level that is, for me, the best in his career. For me – and you know I am biased – he is the best striker in the world."

Since the 2018 World Cup concluded, Lukaku has 23 goals in 21 games across all competitions for Belgium and is just one shy of equalling his best return at a major tournament (four, 2018 World Cup).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Belgium – Kevin De Bruyne

As well as enthusing about Lukaku, Belgium coach Martinez has also declared midfielder De Bruyne to be the best in the world in his position – and few would disagree with that assertion. Although he has only played 134 minutes at Euro 2020, De Bruyne has had a hand in three of Belgium's seven goals (one goal, two assists). Add to that the fact his 71 chances created in major tournaments since the start of the 2014 World Cup is bettered by no European player, then perhaps it is Belgium who hold the trump card with De Bruyne, rather than Portugal with Ronaldo.

 

Portugal – Renato Sanches

Lille midfielder Sanches was brought into the team for the dropped Bruno Fernandes against France, and given how effective he was then, he will surely keep his place. Portugal really benefited from his well-rounded excellence: he made more ball recoveries than any other player on the pitch (eight), his three tackles was bettered by only Nelson Semedo among Portugal players and he was also key to their build-up play – his 38 passes in the opposing half was 11 more than any of his team-mates.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Ronaldo is now the top-scoring European player at major tournaments (World Cup and Euros), with his double against France moving him beyond Miroslav Klose (19) to 21 goals. Indeed, that was Ronaldo's second brace of Euro 2020 already – no player has ever registered three in a single tournament at the European Championship.

- Belgium's victory over Finland last time out marked their ninth win at the World Cup and Euros combined under Martinez, with the Spaniard now holding the outright managerial record for major tournament wins with the Red Devils.

- Portugal have conceded six goals in three games at Euro 2020, already one more than they did at Euro 2016 when they went on to lift the trophy (five goals conceded in seven games). The last time Portugal conceded two or more goals in three consecutive games was in February 2013 under Paulo Bento. They shipped four to Germany followed by two to France in their last two games.

- Belgium have reached the knockout stages in each of their last five appearances at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup), progressing to the semi-final in their previous one at the 2018 World Cup. Their defeat to eventual winners France in 2018 is the only one of their last 10 games at major tournaments that they have failed to win (W9).

- Belgium have only failed to score in two of their previous 58 games under Martínez, averaging exactly three goals per game in this stretch of fixtures (174 in total). The two games where they have been shut out came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against France (losing 1-0) and in their most recent meeting with Portugal, a 0-0 draw in June 2018.

Romelu Lukaku needs no inspiration as Belgium prepare to face Portugal in Euro 2020, though a personal battle with Cristiano Ronaldo serves as extra motivation.

Ronaldo edged out Lukaku in the Serie A scoring charts in 2020-21, with the 36-year-old Juventus star netting 29 times in comparison to the Inter striker's tally of 24 league goals.

While Ronaldo won that tussle, Lukaku led Inter to their first Serie A crown in 11 years.

The duo will now meet up on the international stage, Belgium facing off against Portugal in Seville on Sunday with a quarter-final spot on the line.

"On the personal level, yes," Lukaku told a news conference when asked if going up against Ronaldo in Serie A had improved him as a player.

"As a team it was just important to win the championship. We've done it. It was exceptional, the way we were in all the big matches, we won a lot, it was a great season for us. We hope to do it next year."

Lukaku added: "I would like to have his dribble and the way he kicks the ball. He would like to have my power!"

The Belgium star is on three goals so far in Euro 2020, but Ronaldo leads the way with five, albeit three of those strikes have come from the spot.

Ronaldo scored twice from 12 yards against France last time out, matching Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals in the process.

He is now the top-scoring European player at major tournaments, with his brace against France moving him beyond Miroslav Klose (19) to 21 goals. Indeed, that was Ronaldo's second double at Euro 2020 – no player has ever registered three in a single tournament at the European Championships.

"Those are impressive numbers. If there is anybody who can achieve those numbers it’s him, hats off to him, to do that over and over," Lukaku continued.

"How old is he – 36? [Juve] went out in the Champions League against Porto. The way he got criticism, I was like 'wow; it's unbelievable'.

"Then the next game he scored a hat-trick. It's motivational when you have somebody in your own league who can do it in that age, then you think why couldn't I get to that level, or as close as possible? He's a player you can count on, he wins – that's impressive."

 

Though not as sensational as Ronaldo's, Lukaku also has an international record to boast about. The former Manchester United man has scored 23 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions for Belgium, while also providing four assists in this run, and he believes he has proven his worth as one of the best forwards in the game.

"I wanted to step to the next level, to get better," Lukaku explained.

"People always would talk about [Harry] Kane, [Robert] Lewandowski, [Karim] Benzema, and say it was world-class level, with me it was always 'good form'.

"In the last two years I've shown that it's not just good form, I belong with that group. The thing I really want to do is start winning. The fact we won with Inter has given me more motivation to further improve. The final goal would be to win with the national team. That would be the ultimate recognition for the players here and pride for Belgium.

"I need that, the line between provocation, some people go over it. I go to the line and then I know that's the limit and then I just want to win – that's my goal.

"I think I've gotten to the next level. I keep going up. Everything's possible. It's a matter of work, finding the little things that make you better. I know I've progressed a lot, that's for sure. But I'm always looking for that little extra."

Toby Alderweireld said star-studded Belgium have an "unbelievable" desire to win Euro 2020 as they prepare to face defending champions Portugal in the round of 16.

Belgium and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal will go head-to-head in Seville for a place in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Number one in the world rankings, Belgium have never won a major tournament, having finished runners-up at the European Championship in 1980, while the Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup.

Belgium have reached the knockout stages in each of their last five appearances at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup), progressing to the semi-final in their previous one at Russia 2018. Their defeat to eventual winners France three years ago is the only one of their last 10 games at major tournaments that they have failed to win (W9).

Boasting a golden generation, including Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Youri Tielemans and Thibaut Courtois, veteran defender Alderweireld is bullish about Belgium's chances.

"I want to see it differently," Alderweireld replied when asked if Portugal have an advantage given their 2016 success. "I can't talk about how they feel or how they think, the only thing I can say is that we are very hungry.

"The desire is unbelievable with us to achieve big things for our country and for this team. So we will do everything in our powers to beat them."

On whether this Belgium generation can be the one to deliver a trophy, Tottenham's Alderweireld said: "We will do everything in our powers to become that generation. I think we have already shown that we can beat any team if we have a good day.

"But we know it is going to be a tough opponent, but we believe in our ideas and in our quality."

Belgium will come up against superstar Ronaldo, who equalled Ali Daei for the most international goals in men's football with his 109th following a two-goal haul in Portugal's 2-2 draw against France.

But Alderweireld and Belgium are wary of more than just Ronaldo, the 32-year-old adding: "I think they are a very difficult team to beat. They have a lot of quality, the team is very compact, they know how to play big games in big tournaments.

"A lot of experience as well, so I think we have to be top to beat them. Of course everyone talks about Cristiano Ronaldo, we know he is one of the best in the world. But not only him, I think they have a lot of quality around him as well who create chances for him, So again we have to be top to beat them."

Belgium have only failed to score in two of their last 58 games under head coach Roberto Martinez, averaging exactly three goals per game in this stretch of fixtures (174 in total).

The two games they have been shut out came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against France (0-1), and in their most recent meeting with Portugal – a 0-0 draw in June 2018.

Belgium's victory over Finland last time out marked their ninth win at the World Cup and Euros combined under Martinez, with the Spaniard now holding the outright managerial record for major tournament wins with the Red Devils.

With the group stage of Euro 2020 now over, we can get down to the important business: arguing over who have been the best players until now.

The first three matchdays produced some enthralling spectacles, a handful of shocks and one or two rather forgettable encounters of which there is no need to speak any more.

We have seen some rather obvious star turns, such as a certain Portugal striker equalling the record for international goals in men's football, while other standout performers have flown a little more under the radar.

Here, using Opta data for added insight, Stats Perform presents the Euro 2020 team of the group stage. Please do read on for a few explanations before starting on those angry comments...

 

 

GK: DANNY WARD

Wales battled their way into the knockout rounds after finishing second in Group A, ahead of Switzerland on goal difference. Much of that is down to Danny Ward's form.

The Leicester City man saved 86.7 of the shots on target he faced, the best record among keepers to make at least five saves.

 

LCB: DALEY BLIND

The Netherlands surprised a few people with three convincing wins in Group C, with Daley Blind's calm yet authoritative presence at the heart of their performances.

Blind completed 221 passes in the group stage, more than any other Oranje player, with more than half of those (115) coming in opposition territory.

 

CB: ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN

Quite rightly celebrated for that thunderbolt of a goal in Denmark's key victory over Russia, Andreas Christensen's all-round displays make him worthy of inclusion here.

The Chelsea defender won 79.2 of his duels in the first three rounds, a tally bettered only by Oleksandr Karavaev (80 per cent) and Thomas Vermaelen (90 per cent) among those to contest at least 10.

 

RCB: LEONARDO BONUCCI

Italy's 1.3 expected goals against was the lowest figure of any side in the group phase, underlining the imperious nature of their form not just at these finals but in the whole of their 11-game winning run in which they have not let in a single goal.

Leonardo Bonucci has been the rock at the back, particularly with Giorgio Chiellini battling injury. He has won possession 11 times, the most of any Azzurri defender, and has yet to be beaten by a dribble.

 

LWB: JORDI ALBA

Jordi Alba was Spain's standout performer until the rest of the team somewhat caught up on matchday three as they turned on the style to thrash Slovakia 5-0.

The Barcelona left-back completed 247 passes, the most of any defender after Aymeric Laporte (259), while leading the way for possession won (30 times).

 

CM: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM

With three goals in three games, Georginio Wijnaldum surpassed the great Marco van Basten on the all-time Netherlands scoring charts to reach 25 for his country.

Enjoying a more advanced role at these finals, Paris Saint-Germain fans are being given a glimpse of what the midfielder could provide for them next season.

 

CM: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is one of only two midfielders to create nine goalscoring chances during the group stage.

The Tottenham man set up two Denmark's goals in the 4-1 hammering of Russia to move to three assists at these finals, a tally matched only by Switzerland's Steven Zuber.

 

CM: MANUEL LOCATELLI

His two goals against Switzerland were the highlight of his group-stage displays and made Manuel Locatelli just the third Italy player to score twice in a single European Championship match.

The Sassuolo star was rested against Wales, but the quality of his performances in the first two games prompted rumours that Juventus have redoubled their efforts to sign him.

 

RWB: DENZEL DUMFRIES

Full-back Denzel Dumfries became an unlikely goalscoring hero for Frank de Boer, becoming just the second Netherlands player to score in his first two European Championship games (the first was Ruud van Nistelrooy).

Denmark wing-back Joakim Maehle was the only nominal defender with more touches in the opposition box (20) during the group stage than Dumfries (17).

 

CF: ROMELU LUKAKU

Continuing his spectacular Inter form at these finals, Romelu Lukaku scored three times in Belgium's group games from a total of just four shots on target.

He would probably be the favourite for the Golden Boot were it not for the form of the only man to outscore him in Serie A last season...

 

CF: CRISTIANO RONALDO

With five goals in three games, Cristiano Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer at the World Cup and European Championship combined (21).

The Portugal captain needs just one more to surpass Ali Daei as the top-scoring international men's footballer of all time.

Eden Hazard is feeling strong and happy according to Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez, who urged the Real Madrid attacker to build on his performance in a 2-0 win over Finland.

After coming on as a substitute in Belgium's two opening matches at Euro 2020, Hazard started against Finland and posed Markku Kanerva's side problems alongside Romelu Lukaku and Jeremy Doku.

Hazard, who battled through an injury-plagued 2020-21 season in which he made just 14 LaLiga appearances, played all 90 minutes against Finland and impressed his coach.

Martinez told reporters: "He [Hazard] pushed himself and got into good positions.

"He looks free, twisting right and left. He feels strong, happy, his body is reacting well.

"The next step is now to see Eden with that final pass, that shot that finishes in the back of the net.

"I was delighted with his performance."

Since losing 1-0 to France in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup, Belgium have scored in 33 consecutive matches in all competitions.

Victory over Finland ensured Belgium have won all three group games at back-to-back major tournaments (2018 World Cup and Euro 2020), and booked them a round of 16 match against the third-placed side from Group A, D, E or F in Seville on Sunday.

Belgium's most recent match in Spain ended in a 5-0 loss to the home side in a 2010 World Cup qualifier featuring Hazard alongside Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen.

Martinez underlined the importance of his side hitting top gear, saying: "This team has been very consistent over the last five years. It's now about getting every individual at their very best.

"We're going to play in Seville and we'll need to adapt and have every player ready and prepared to make the team better."

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