Belgium will face their biggest test of the competition so far when they travel to the Allianz Arena to play Italy.
Thorgan Hazard scored the goal of the round of 16 to knock holders Portugal out of Euro 2020. Despite Portugal’s second half barrage – and having the luxury of bringing on Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes – it was Belgium who advanced to face Italy.
Portugal’s 24 shots were no match for Hazard’s lone shot on target. What mattered was that Eden’s brother beat Rui Patricio on the night.
Italy weren’t pleasant on the eye in their extra-time win over Austria. But by winning tie, they moved their unbeaten record to 31.
Friday’s 9pm kick off now represents a battle between the two best teams in term of form in the competition.
Belgium’s progress came at a price with their two most influential players – Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard – facing a race against time to be fit to start after a particularly bruising encounter in the last 16. Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco are ready to step into the breach.
Another key aspect will be yellow cards in this tie with both Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld one caution away from suspension.
“Italy will be the toughest opponent we’ve met so far,” says Thorgan Hazard.
“They’ve had a good run of wins and it will be a nice challenge for us to end that sequence. Their style may suit us more than Portugal. They are enterprising so we may be able to profit from the open spaces, but it definitely won’t be any easier.”
Italy have been boosted by Giorgio Chiellini’s fitness and with Belgium’s key defenders a card away from suspension, the likes of Chiesa, Immobile and Spinazzola could cause the defense some serious issues.
It’s a clash of the titans with star names across every position. Italy start as favourites but even their ardent fans will be wary of being over confident.