BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jun 25 – Coach Roberto Martinez said Belgium won’t alter their approach for Sunday’s Euro 2020 last-16 tie against holders Portugal despite the threat of the tournament’s leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
Belgium, the world’s top-ranked side, face a difficult draw after taking maximum points from their three Group B matches, with Portugal going through as one of the four best third-placed teams, just as they did in 2016.
But with an in-form Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne back fit after a facial injury sustained in the Champions League final and Eden Hazard making his first start in the 2-0 win over Finland, the Belgians have no shortage in firepower of their own.
“We cannot change who we are. We’re a dynamic team built to attack and to get at the opposing goal as soon as possible, but we’ll have to be patient,” Martinez told a news conference on Friday.
“We will have to make the right decision when to be patient and when to make those counter-attacks.
“We’re full of confidence. When we enjoy our football we play at our best,” he added.
Belgium came third at the 2018 World Cup but have their work cut out to reach the July 11 final at Wembley with Italy and France or Spain possible opponents in the next two rounds if they get beyond Portugal.
“It’s a tough path but if you get through then it’s all the nicer,” said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. “That’s the draw we’ve got but we hope to finish well.”
– Immense respect –
First up is Ronaldo and co. in Seville, where Belgium will have the advantage of two extra days’ rest over Portugal, who drew 2-2 with France on Wednesday to make sure of their place in the knockout phase.
“It’s probably too early for the two teams to be facing each other but you have to be prepared,” said Martinez.
“Portugal are a team that whatever they do, they do it very well. We saw very different games against France, Germany and Hungary.”
“When you can win a final in Paris against France (at Euro 2016), I think it shows you what they have,” he added.
“Now they have a generation who know how to win. We respect them immensely but we’re looking at our side and we have fantastic players.”
Ronaldo has scored five goals in three games after becoming the first player to appear at five European Championships.
His two penalties against France also saw him equal former Iran striker Ali Daei’s all-time record of 109 international goals.
“I think we have to defend very, very well,” said Martinez, who ruled out making a game plan exclusively designed to shutting down Ronaldo.
“When you put a plan against a specific player you can be hurt by other players.
“The way they play they have a lot threats. You always have to be aware of Ronaldo, but you have to defend all 10 players in the same measure.
“They have an incredible accumulation of individuals from Bernardo Silva to Diogo Jota, Bruno Fernandes and Renato Sanches, and the experience of centre-half Pepe,” he added.
“We know why they have been successful and why they’ve won the Nations League, it’s because they have this incredible mentality and know how to win big games.”