June 26, 2021, Seville: The Estadio de La Cartuja in Seville will host one of the most mouthwatering knockout clashes. As World’s number 1 ranked team Belgium find itself in the RO16 alongside defending EURO Champions Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo and co. come into this game after finishing third in the ‘Group of Death’. On their final matchday, they played out a 2-2 draw against Group-F leaders, France. Belgium on the other hand topped their group with 3 wins out of 3 matches. The scoreline read 0-2 in favour of Belgium on their final group stage fixture against Finland.

History of the Rivalry:

The two European powerhouses will ink down their 19th meeting come Sunday. It will also be their first meeting at a major tournament. Out of the last 18 times when they’ve come across each other, Portugal has more wins to show. Fernando Santos’ side has 6 wins while the Belgians are just one win shy with 5 wins. And 7 matches between them have ended with no victors.

Facts to look forward to:

  • The Belgians have just faced defeat once in their last 10 appearances at major tournaments. Their last defeat came against World Champions France in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup. Except for the defeat against France, they haven’t failed to be on the winning side on the remaining 9 occasions.
  • Portugal has finished third in their group for the second time in a row at the Euros. The last time they finished third was at the 2016 Euros where they went on to become the Champions. This fact about them clearly states that you just can’t write them off.
  • Roberto Martinez’s devils are goal-scoring machines indeed. Out of their last 58 matches under Martinez, Belgium hasn’t found the back of the net just twice. One was their semi-final defeat to France and the other one was a goalless draw against Portugal. They have an unrealistic average of three goals per game courtesy of their 174 goals in 58 matches.
  • Portuguese great Cristiano Ronaldo now hold the joint record for the most international goals for men alongside Iran’s Ali Daei. Against France, he scored his 109th international goal for Portugal and is just short of creating a world record. Ronaldo is just one goal shy from becoming the highest ever international goalscorer in men’s football.
Cristiano after reaching the landmark 109 international goals tally. Pic via UEFA
  • Belgium has been very solid in both halves of the pitch. They love scoring goals but don’t allow their oppositions to have the luxury of scoring goals against them. In their last 5 outings, the Belgian red devils have scored 9 goals and have conceded just twice.  
Also Read: EURO 2020: What can we expect from the Round of 16

Key battles to watch out for:

  • Kevin De Bruyne vs Bruno Fernandes

The battle of two midfield magicians who represent two different sides of Manchester in the domestic campaign will be up for display. Kevin De Bruyne has been on the top of his game and is for sure Belgium’s man on a mission. Despite having just 134 minutes of football at the Euros under his belt, De Bruyne has been directly involved in three of Belgium’s seven goals. Kevin has scored once and has assisted twice for Belgium in the last two group stage matches.

Fernandes on the other hand too has been a key player for the Selecao. His stats at the Euros don’t really justify what he brings to table. Bruno is a versatile midfielder and his ability to adapt to the need of the team is what stands out.

  • Romeo Lukaku vs Cristiano Ronaldo

This particular battle to watch out for has 9 goal contributions at the ongoing European festival of football. Romeo Lukaku is Belgium’s top scorer at the Euros with 3 strikes to his name in 3 games. Lukaku finds himself in the second position in the golden boot ranking behind Ronaldo.

Words can’t be enough to personify Ronaldo. Cristiano dominates the top spot for the golden boot with 5 goals. Ronaldo is the only player in the tournament to score all three group stage fixtures. Alongside his tally of 5 goals, he even has an assist to show for his efforts.

Author’s take:

The World Cup Bronze medalists Belgium are heavy favourites to advance to the Quarterfinals. Roberto Martinez’s side has been very consistent ever since he has taken over. But, the story with Fernando Santos’ side is completely opposite. Portugal hasn’t shown any great signs of being consistent and their slip-ups against Germany and France are a very recent set of examples. But, as mentioned earlier, you just can’t write off Cristiano Ronaldo’s army. Hence, it is definitely going to be a great spectacle for football fans across the globe.

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