Many fans will look back on the Euro 2020 tournament and wonder if this summer was a wasted opportunity for the squad to bring a trophy back to the nation. Meanwhile, the Golden Generation faced a quarter-final exit in the most open of tournaments. As England, Spain and Italy remained in the later stages and were the only team which caused a threat to the Belgian side. While Belgium once again failed to make it all the way in a major tournament, questions will need asking in regard to Roberto Martinez’s management. Due to the strength of depth he has at his disposal and the lack in desire to show their talent on a large stage. Yet again, The Red Devils fail to perform in a major tournament. This is following their semi-final defeat in the 2018 world cup.
The Group stages highlighted Belgium’s dominance as they topped the group.
The opening fixture for Belgium will be in the minds of many for the raw emotion that weigh on the game. This is after news broke out hours before kick off with the concern over Christian Eriksen’s health. The Red Devils began their group fixture as they hoped to carry on beating Russia 3-0 showcasing the skill that the front three possess. As well as the understanding of positioning in and around the box. Of course some may argue that Belgium’s success came at the hands of the poor defending by Russia. But the issues surrounding the defensive performance would not have occurred if the attacking mindset from Belgium put pressure on the defenders. An unsuccessful attempt to intercept Mertens pass into the box allowed Lukaku to latch onto the ball before he struck an excellent strike into the bottom corner.
A goal from Romelu Lukaku gave Belgium the lead in the opening ten minutes. In contrast to Belgium’s dream start to the tournament things suddenly got a lot worse for Russia as they conceded another goal just before half-time. Two minutes remained and Lukaku thrived on the moment as he scored a brace in his first match. Dedicating both goals to Inter-Milan teammate (Eriksen) as he recovered in hospital. Next, they met Denmark. Although, Denmark lost the match, it previewed the determination and passion the Danes had to advance in the tournament after such an emotional beginning.
In their final fixture in the group stages they faced Finland and won 2-0 securing their place at the top of the group and a place in the Round of 16 where they were to meet former European Champions. Portugal!
Belgium beat former Champions.
Roberto Martinez’s side met Portugal in the knockout stages of Euro 2020. Both Belgium and Portugal had equal opportunities in the oppositions half but each side couldn’t capitalise on the chances they created as each team showed the other to much respect, giving the ball away too many times in dangerous areas. Belgium took the lead before half-time with a touch from Thorgan Hazard on the inside, slicing a right-footed strike into the bottom corner. A goal from Hazard gave Belgium their first win against Portugal for the first time since September 1989 in a Word Cup Qualifier, ending their run of five meetings without a win against them.
The Quarter-final curse in a Euros continues for Belgium
Belgium and Italy met four times in a major tournament with Italy being the team on top (W3, D1) and Belgium hoped to end their run. Martinez made one change with Doku coming in to replace Eden Hazard after he picked up an injury from the match against Portugal. Although De Bruyne was a doubt due to an injury, he was fit to start. The game was won in the first 45 minutes. The lead came after an error from Vertonghen as he loses possession to Verratti who then passed a through ball to Barella. He skipped past the defence and drilled the ball into the net.
A stunning strike from Insigne Doubled Italy’s lead. He cut inside from the left-wing onto his right foot and hit a curling strike which smashed inside the top right corner. Despite Belgium being awarded a penalty after Di Lorenzo pushed Doku in the back inside the penalty area and the penalty being converted, Belgium didn’t show enough grit to beat the Italians.
What’s the solution?
Belgium and Martinez have some soul searching to do with their next real chance coming in the 2022 World cup whether that’s changing their tactics to suit the strength they have in attack and releasing some pressure off the back four as much of the defence are getting towards the end of their careers or they look at bringing some of their youngsters into the team in future tournaments. A question must be asked as to where Eden Hazard fits into the squad after failing to make it into Real Madrid’s starting eleven or even getting minutes in a match. Looking ahead to qualifying for the next World Cup, Belgium should feature the blood new talent in friendlies giving those players a chance to perform on an international stage but also audition for a place in the senior team.