The first heavyweight clash in the knockout stage will see the number one ranked team in the world Belgium, squaring up against reigning champions Portugal in a blockbuster encounter in Seville, Spain.
Belgium arrives in Seville having being perfect in the Group stage , winning three from three to top the standings in Group B, while, not the same could be said about Portugal after scraping through in the group of death following one win, one draw, and one defeat to finish Group F on four points to qualify as one of third best teams.
Inter Milan star, Romelu Lukaku, and Man City maestro, Kevin De Bruyne, have been crucial for The Red Devils and this was vindicated in the match against Denmark as the duo turned on the style late on to inspire Belgium to a victory.
Reigning champions Portugal were one of the heavy favourites at the start of the competition and they definitely do have what it takes to finish off the job but they will need other big players such as Bernardo Silva, Renato Sanches and Bruno Fernandes to step up and play their role to assist captain fantastic, Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s been superb thus far.
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
ROMELU LUKAKU : The Belgian has been in blistering form this season with both club and country, which saw him being named the best overall MVP in Serie A, after firing Inter Milan to the title with 24 goals and 11 assists in the league .
Lukaku is one of the early candidates for the Golden Boot Award at the Euros after netting three goals in the competition so far and the Portugal defence will have their work cut out trying to stop Lukaku from adding to his tally.
EDEN HAZARD: Hazard hasn’t been the same player since he left Chelsea for the Spanish giants Real Madrid due to injuries and loss of form but despite everything, it’s impossible to write off the Belgium magician considering what we all know he can do in big games.
The Real Madrid playmaker is a big game player and Roberto Martínez knows it’s crucial to have Hazard firing again if Belgium are to stand any chance of winning the Euros, and maybe, just maybe, this could be the game where Hazard sparks to life and helps The Red Devils to victory.
CRISTIANO RONALDO: As always, the ever green Cristiano Rolando has been leading from the front for Portugal, banging five goals in three matches in the Group stages to underline why he’s one of the best footballers in his generation .
One thing about Ronaldo, he thrives in big games, he simply has a big match temperament and the Belgium defence will know all about Ronaldo. If Belgium can stop Ronaldo, and that’s a big if, then half the job is done, although this will not be an easy task.
BRUNO FERNANDES: It’s safe to say the Man United star man has had a disappointing start to Euros thus far with very unconvincing performances for a player of his caliber, but one massive performance against Belgium and all this will be forgotten.
Bruno Fernandes has been in brilliant form for Man United this season, netting 18 goals for United in that period, and Portugal desperately need him to start producing similar performances especially in a massive game such as this one.
Predictions: Belgium 1.40
This is probably the last chance for the Belgium’s Golden Generation to win a major trophy besides the FIFA World Cup which will be much more harder to win , so expect Belgium to edge Portugal.
Written by Ntobeko Mbambo