Belgium and Portugal go head-to-head in one of the ties of Euro 2020 so far as Netherlands take on Czech Republic in Sunday’s two last-16 games.
Netherlands vs Czech Republic – Kick-off 5pm
Belgium vs Portugal – Kick-off 8pm
Belgium arrive in the last-16 as one of three sides still with a 100 per cent record, having seen off Russia, Denmark and Finland to win Group B at a canter.
A very different test now awaits Roberto Martinez’s side in the last-16 in the shape of Portugal, the reigning champions coming into the knock-out stages on the back of holding World Cup winners France in their last game.
They will be led, as normal, by five-time Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who tops the overall scoring charts for the tournament with five goals in three games.
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez maintains, publicly at least, he has no special plan to deal with the Juventus forward, despite his penchant for goals in a European Championship, and his standing as the tournament’s all-time top scorer.
“Obviously we are going to have to defend really well but when you create a plan against a specific player, you can get hurt by other players.
“Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo is a player who seems to pick the right moment, that right pass and right place and you have to always be aware. We all know he is one of the best footballers in the world.
“But you also have to defend against the other 10 players. The way Portugal plays, they’ve got a lot of flair and a lot of pace behind. There are several Portugal players of a similar measure and we’ll need to be compact and really solid and defend as a team.
“You can see why this team has been successful, why they won the Euros and the Nations League. It’s because they have an incredible mentality and they know how to play the big games.”
There is plenty of mutual respect apparent between the two sides, as Portugal manager Fernando Santos took time to point out Belgium’s versatility in formation
“Belgium has a lot of strengths, especially the knowledge they have of each other for having been together for such a long time,” Santos said. “Everything flows naturally. They already know where everyone is without having to think about it.
“They can go with a 3-4-3, or five in attack, or a 3-4-1-2. It’s a team that likes to come out playing.”
Another of those teams to emerge from their group with a perfect record were the Netherlands, who cast aside pre-tournament doubts to score seven goals in Group C and set up a knock-out route which, on paper, looks relatively straightforward.
Their first opponents are the Czech Republic, who qualified from third in Group F and were beaten at a canter by England in their last group game. Memphis Depay, Netherlands’ second-top scorer at the tournament with two goals, has tougher memories of facing them In the past, and was a starter in a 3-2 defeat six years ago which ended his country’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2016.
“I know that [the Czech Republic are] very intense. I haven’t come up against them for a while; I think 2015 was the last time for me,” he said.
“But they’ve never been an easy team to play against. So you know it will be tough. We have to give a full 100 per cent if we want to win. We’re planning to do that, but it certainly won’t be plain sailing.”
The Czechs themselves don’t appear to be expecting plain sailing either, with manager Jaroslav Silhavy pointing to Netherlands’ expansive attacking game in the group stages, which has made them one of the most entertaining teams of the tournament so far.
“The Dutch have a lot of quality,” he said. “We were just studying them in detail: how hungry they are for goals and the great individual skill, they have a lot of pace. They know their game and play in a simple manner and get the ball forward as fast as possible to the forwards. If they lose it, they instantly press and it’s very difficult.
“So, if we want to think about advancing, we have to give 100 per cent – 150 per cent – and if a few individual performances can be replicated like in the game against Scotland, when Tomas Vaclik and Patrik Schick performed brilliantly, we have a good chance of winning.”
Netherlands vs Czech Republic: Dutch striker Luuk De Jong has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament after injuring his knee preparing for the Czech Republic game in training on Tuesday.
That aside, the Netherlands have a full-strength squad to pick from, with a decision to be made over whether to keep Donyell Malen in a starting role, given his impressive performance against North Macedonia in their final group game. Marten De Roon is likely to retain his position in midfield but would miss the quarter-final if booked.
Czech Republic are looking to cope without the services of left-back Jan Boril, who is suspended, and had started all three of his country’s games so far. The recovering Michal Sadilek is still a doubt, while Adam Hlozek and Josef Masopust are both one booking away from a suspension.
Belgium vs Portugal: Belgium have no new injury problems, with Timothy Castagne their only absentee after his tournament-ending eye socket fracture.
Thorgan Hazard would miss any potential quarter-final if booked, and so too Portugal’s Ruben Dias. Santos has a fully fit squad to pick from, and is likely to retain Renato Sanches in midfield after his impressive performances to date.
- This will be the first meeting between the Netherlands and Czech Republic since October 2015, when the Dutch were beaten 3-2 in a EURO 2016 qualifier. Indeed, they have lost each of their last two games against the Czech Republic – both coming in qualifying for the previous European Championships in 2016.
- Czech Republic and the Netherlands will face each other at the European Championships for the third time (excl. Czechoslovakia meetings), with both sides winning one game apiece previously. Their last meeting in the competition was a thriller at EURO 2004, in which the Czechs came from two goals down to win 3-2, following an 88th minute winner from Vladimir Smicer.
- Since winning the tournament in 1988, the Netherlands have progressed from just two of their seven knockout stage games in the European Championship, beating Yugoslavia 6-1 in the 2000 quarter-final, and winning 5-4 on penalties against Sweden at the same stage in 2004.
- Czech Republic have been eliminated in three of their last four games in the knockout stages of the European Championships – versus Germany in the final in 1996, Greece in the semi-final in 2004, and most recently, Portugal in the quarter-final of EURO 2012.
- The Netherlands are looking to win their opening four games of a European Championship for only the second time, having last done so at EURO 2000. Current manager Frank de Boer played in every minute of their four victories to open the tournament in 2000, with all of them being played on home soil in the Netherlands.
- This will be the first ever major tournament meeting (World Cup/EUROs) between Belgium and Portugal; Portugal are unbeaten in their last five matches against Belgium across all competitions (W3 D2) since a 3-0 defeat in World Cup qualifying in September 1989.
- Belgium have only failed to score in two of their last 58 games under Roberto Martínez, averaging exactly three goals per game in this stretch of fixtures (174 in total). The two games they have been shut out came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against France (0-1), and in their most recent meeting with Portugal – a 0-0 draw in June 2018.
- Belgium have reached the knockout stages in each of their last five appearances at a major tournament (EUROs and World Cup), progressing to the semi-final in their previous one at the 2018 World Cup. Their defeat to eventual winners France in 2018 is the only one of their last 10 games at major tournaments that they have failed to win (W9).
- Portugal have qualified for the knockout stages of the EUROs in third place for the second tournament in a row, also doing so in 2016 before going on to lift the trophy. Indeed, their return of four points from their three group games is the poorest return for a EUROs defending champion since Greece in 2008 (0).
- Belgium’s victory over Finland last time out marked their ninth win at the World Cup & Euros combined under Roberto Martínez, with the Spaniard now holding the outright managerial record for major tournament wins with the Red Devils.
Also at the Euros…
A sprawling European Championship like no other is racking up air miles like never before. With some teams playing most or all their games so far at home, others are flying from one end of the continent to the other and back again.
“Unfortunately you have teams or countries who can play all their group games in their countries,” Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen said Tuesday after a group stage spent shuttling between St Petersburg and Copenhagen with a training base in Belgium.
“Traveling is not something that will help you win the tournament but it’s something we have to accept and just deal with it,” Vermaelen said. “It’s not something we will moan about as a team. It’s just something that belongs to this tournament.”
The distances between the 11 host cities make even the last two World Cups – when teams flew across the Amazon rainforest in Brazil or to Russia’s Ural mountains – seem small by comparison.
Poland travelled furthest in a group split between Seville in Europe’s far southwest and St. Petersburg in the northeast. The two cities are nearly 3,600km (2,200m) apart, a journey Poland made twice, stopping off at home along the way.
Switzerland travelled nearly as far between Rome and Baku, Azerbaijan, and coach Vladimir Petkovic said their third-placed finish in Group A wasn’t helped by crossing two time zones on four occasions in less than two weeks.
“It’s definitely not the optimal way to prepare for each game,” Petkovic said Sunday. “We have travelled so much and had to adapt so much, the bio-rhythms and everything else. It was really difficult and I have to pay a compliment to my team for how they have reacted. No one has been moaning.”
England vs Germany: The big Sky Sports podcast preview
Rivalries in international football don’t get any bigger than England versus Germany. With the two nations set for a collision course in the last-16 of Euro 2020, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp and Uli Kohler joined Peter Smith to analyse both camps ahead of Tuesday’s showdown at Wembley.
PART 1 | Jamie Redknapp, a member of the England squad dumped out of Euro 96 by Germany, assesses the Three Lions’ performances in the group stages of Euro 2020 and explains why Gareth Southgate’s talented squad have nothing to fear against the Germans.
PART 2 | The prospect of facing England at Wembley is one every Germany player will relish irrespective of an inconsistent group stage, according to Sky Germany reporter Uli Kohler, who talks tactics, Jamal Musiala, Jadon Sancho and the dreaded prospect of penalties with Peter in part two.