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HomeSportsEarly reckoning for top-ranked Belgium

Early reckoning for top-ranked Belgium

Top-ranked Belgium and its golden generation will face an early scoring in the European Championships with a resolute Portuguese champion who made it to the round of 16 on Sunday.

The contrast in progress could not have been more significant had Belgium masterfully overcome adversity and won all of its group games, while pugnacious Portugal saw its ebb and flow.

The extra day off was a reward for Belgium leading Group B after seeing the mascot trio of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel come back from injury.

One could argue that Portugal is better prepared, as it had to lose to the likes of Germany and France.

Portugal has its own mascot in the person of Cristiano Ronaldo, who needs another goal to become the top scorer in world football.

The juxtaposition of Ronaldo’s ability to win matches and Belgium’s hitting shooter Romelu Lukaku adds intrigue to the game.

With 63 goals for his country, Lukaku, eight years younger than Ronaldo, may one day challenge Portugal’s captain’s record.

Meanwhile, in Budapest, the Netherlands faces a long-standing nemesis in the Czech Republic.

The Dutch have led Group C with an excellent result, but they will fear what lies ahead. It was a mistake they made in qualifying for Euro 2016, losing at home and away to the Czechs and failing to make it to the tournament in France.

Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavi is energetic, pressing hard and looking for opportunities to pass the ball and counterattack.

Patrick Schick has a striker who has scored three goals.

The Dutch remain the favorites, however, with Memphis Depay and Donyel Malen providing an exciting new attacking combination, while Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong manage the midfield.

Defender Matthijs de Ligt has a groin injury and is making up for Virgil van Dijk’s absence from the top four.



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