Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen admitted his side were “lucky” to progress, while Ian Wright blamed a Premier League star for being the reason behind Portugal’s defeat.
Belgium edged past Portugal in Seville after Thorgan Hazard’s swerving strike proved decisive. The forward’s effort was Belgium’s only shot on target throughout the contest, but what they lacked in attacking firepower they more than made up for with defensive resilience.
Portugal boasted a star-studded frontline including Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva.
Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix were both brought on early in the second half, but none of the quintet could find a way past the superb Belgian centre-halves and Thibaut Courtois.
Their reward is a trip to Munich to face Italy in what is shaping up to be a mouth-watering quarter final clash. However, they may be without one or both of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard after succumbing to ankle and hamstring injuries respectively.
Speaking after the match (via the BBC), veteran centre-back Thomas Vermaelen said: “In the first half we were playing high and putting pressure on Portugal, but looking at that second half, we are lucky to win.
“Portugal made it really hard for us. We had to really stay focused. It has cost us a lot of energy, but we have some time to recover and now we are looking forward to the game against Italy.”
Former England striker Ian Wright highlighted the difference in quality between the two goalkeepers as a crucial factor.
“We can look at Rui Patricio, he’s got his feet wrong on that goal and this level the difference is the goalkeeper,” he said while working as a pundit on ITV.
“Courtois handled everything really well, and for me, if that was Courtois he would’ve saved that. That was the difference.”
⚠️ 𝐖𝐎𝐑𝐋𝐃𝐈𝐄 𝐀𝐋𝐄𝐑𝐓! ⚠️
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) June 27, 2021
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Belgian football journalist Kristof Tereur had mixed feelings given two of their star players had fallen in the quest for victory.
“I’m relieved. You have to ask at what price now losing Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard,” said Tereur.
“Anyway, this team will need some recovery sessions before Friday I think. They dug deep for the victory. We’re through that’s the good thing, but at what price that’s the main question.”