…as Czech Republic stuns 10-man Netherlands
A moment of class from Thorgan Hazard proved enough to knock out holders Portugal as Belgium continued their pursuit of a first major title by reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
The Borussia Dortmund winger’s swerving drive from 25 yards arrived late in a cagey first-half and proved enough for Roberto Martinez’s side to set up a mouth-watering meeting with Italy on Friday.
Portugal – who again only introduced Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes from the bench – will look back on key Diogo Jota chances, a Ruben Dias header that was saved and a late Raphael Guerreiro drive that struck the post.
Kevin De Bruyne’s fitness may dominate headlines in the build-up to the Italy showdown in Munich after he limped off moments after half-time, and Belgium also lost Eden Hazard to a complaint late on.
The world’s highest-ranked side may have key holes to fill but again they have showed they possess the grit to complement their undoubted quality.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic pulled off the shock of the European Championship so far by defeating the Netherlands and booking their place in the last eight after defender Matthijs de Ligt was sent off.
Tomas Holes nodded in the opener 13 minutes after De Ligt saw red for handball following a VAR review, denying Patrik Schick a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Holes then turned provider for Schick as the Czechs doubled their lead on 80 minutes, reports the BBC.
The Netherlands, down to 10 men for over half an hour, had a huge chance earlier on as Donyell Malen raced through one-on-one with goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.
But the Czech Republic, ranked 40th in the world, 24 places behind the Dutch, went on to silence those in orange at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, setting up a quarter-final with Denmark on Saturday, July 3.
Red card proves costly for vulnerable Dutch
The Netherlands have shown attacking intent throughout the tournament and that did not change in Budapest as wing-backs Denzel Dumfries and Patrick van Aanholt caused problems early on.
Dumfries was their main threat, getting in behind at one point on the left and flicking it over the keeper but unable to beat the last defender, reports the BBC.
Memphis Depay was heavily involved too, while Malen got into some dangerous positions.
But while the Netherlands caused problems out wide, so did the Czech Republic, as Vladimir Coufal exploited space in behind left by the roaming Van Aanholt.
Both teams looked susceptible in defence but when De Ligt tripped and pulled the ball back with his hand in the second half, it left referee Sergey Karasev with no choice but to overturn his original decision to show just a yellow card.
And then the Netherlands were on the back foot.
Dumfries made a goal-saving block to deny Pavel Kaderabek but Holes punished the Dutch minutes later, finishing off a knock-back from Tomas Kalas on a corner.
Schick’s fourth goal of the tournament finished it off after the Netherlands had pushed for an equaliser – only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has more goals than the Czech forward so far.
They travel to Azerbaijan to take on Denmark next, who they beat 3-0 in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004.
Belgium 1 – 0 Portugal
Netherlands 0 – 2 Czech Republic