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Thorgan Hazard’s goal helps Belgium oust Euro defending champion
Belgium stopped Cristiano Ronaldo on one end, and had just enough attacking power on the other. The top-ranked Belgians held onto a first-half lead to beat defending champion Portugal 1-0 on Sunday (Monday in IST) here and advance to the quarter-finals of the European Championship.
Ronaldo, who threw his captain’s armband to the ground in despair after the final whistle, is still one goal shy of becoming the all-time men’s top-scorer in international football. He came into the match tied with former Iran striker Ali Daei at 109 goals. Belgium, which has never won a major title, will next face Italy on Friday (Saturday in IST) in Munich.
Belgium’s potent attack, comprising Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, also struggled, but wing-back Thorgan Hazard scored the winning goal in the 42nd minute with a swerving shot from outside the box. Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio was left wrong-footed and was late to swat the ball away. “In these kind of games, you have to grab your chances with both hands,” said Thorgan. “The goalkeeper expected me to choose the other corner, so the ball went in.”Belgium played most of the second half without De Bruyne, who had to be substituted after injuring his left ankle. Portugal had several good chances to equalise late in the match. While Ruben Dias’s headed effort was saved by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Raphael Guerreiro’s right-footed strike hit the far post. The Portuguese did most of the attacking in the second half, finishing with 24 attempts. Belgium had six in total and scored the only time it hit the target.
Ronaldo was kept in check for most of the match, with his best scoring chance coming from a free-kick saved by Courtois in the 25th minute. He was off target with a free-kick in the 74th minute, and managed a weak shot on goal a few minutes later. The Juventus striker seemed frustrated by the lack of opportunities, and couldn’t do much to help his teammates.
It had been a slow start at the La Cartuja Stadium, with neither team threatening offensively. Portugal kept Belgium’s attack under control until Thorgan scored after a failed clearance.
RESULTS: Belgium 1 (Thorgan Hazard 42’) beat Portugal 0; Netherlands 0 lost to Czech Republic 2 (Tomas Holes 68’, Patrik Schick 80’)
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