Life doesn’t get much easier for Portugal does it?
The reigning European Champions followed a 3-0 opening game win over Hungary with matches against the past two world champions, Germany and France, and now they face the world’s top-ranked side, Belgium.
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It’s been a rough eight days for Fernando Santos’ side, and they haven’t exactly been convincing in their performances – conceding six goals over two games and only scoring twice from open play.
One thing that has been convincing for them though is the form of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. Topping the charts with five goals in three starts, CR7 almost single-handedly dragged his side out of the ‘Group of Death’, bagging in each of their games and contributing an assist for good measure.
The Juventus forward is proving that he’s still every bit the threat he has always been and, even at the ripe old age of 36, his pace and precision on the counter-attack should be more than enough to worry the aging legs of Belgium’s defence.
‘The Red Devils’ survived a scare against Denmark and left it late against Finland but were able to come out of Group B flawlessly with nine points on the board.
It was thanks in no small part to the genius of Kevin De Bruyne and the athleticism of Romelu Lukaku – who combined to hammer the nail into Finland’s coffin on Monday evening.
He may have only played a game and a half but Manchester City midfielder De Bruyne has been one of the shining lights at the tournament so far, and odds of 7/1 for him to be the player of the tournament aren’t to be sniffed at if Belgium survive this test.
Portugal v Belgium : The Man in the Middle
Entrusted to oversee this one is German official Felix Brych, who was actually in control of that aforementioned Belgian victory over Finland.
In his two games at the tournament so far, he’s shown a single card and averages 16 fouls per game.
His performance at Euro 2020 isn’t indicative of his style though, with the doctor handing out six red cards in his 10 Champions League games over the last two years.
He may also be tempted to let his hair down a little now too, especially given what we saw in the first two knockout games.
There were seven yellows and a red inside 90 minutes (plus two more bookings in extra time) in Saturday’s games, a stark contrast to most of the group stage fixtures which averaged 2.72 cards per game.
Portugal v Belgium : The Bets
While researching for this piece, I came across a couple of interesting price discrepancies that I think we can take advantage of.
‘The Ginger Pele’ has taken two or more shots in 11 of his 13 major tournament appearances and, even more interestingly, in each of his 23 Premier League starts for Manchester City last season (at an average of 3.4 per game).
The same is true of the price on Liverpool’s Diogo Jota to do the same. bet365 are Evens for Diogo Jota to have Over 1.5 Shots, while some other bookies are as short as 1/4.
The Liverpool forward has taken 25 shots in eight international starts (3.13 per game), as well as averaging over three per game when starting for his club side last season.
When combined, the pair make a 5/2 BetBuilder double at bet365 – whilst the same bet is 0.88/1 at Paddypower.
Another play I fancy is Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku both to score at 11/2. This is a clash of two of the most prolific strikers in Italian football, and the pair have been in fantastic form at the Euros.
Lukaku has been one of the shining lights for Belgium at the tournament so far. He’s got three goals in three games, to go with the 30 he scored for Inter Milan last season.
As I mentioned above, Ronaldo has five goals in his three games so far and he’s now one goal away from breaking the international goals record. You’ve got to think he’ll be doing everything and anything he can to get his goal.
Finally, I like Kevin De Bruyne to be named Man of the Match at 5/1 with bet365. He picked up the gong in his only start of the tournament so far, and arguably should have received the award for his 45-minute cameo against Denmark too. Everything they do runs through hun, and it’d be no surprise to see him win the accolade here too.
I also think it’d be remiss not to consider Belgium’s wing-backs for the prize too. We’ve already seen German duo Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich run Portugal ragged, so the prices on Thomas Meunier (33/1) and Thorgan Hazard (20/1) aren’t to be sniffed at.
Portugal v Belgium Selections
- Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku both to score – 11/2
- Kevin De Bruyne 2+ Shots – 8/11 with bet365
- Kevin De Bruyne and Diogo Jota 2+ Shots Each – 5/2 with bet365 BetBuilder
- Kevin De Bruyne to be Star of the Match – 5/1 with bet365