Belgium and Italy meet in Munich on Friday at 8pm (UK time) looking to score a Euro 2020 semi-final against either Spain or Switzerland.
Two of the favourites to win the tournament, Belgium and Italy both went perfect in the Euro 2020 group stages, with the latter also keeping three clean sheets. But only one can advance to the final four.
After winning all three of their group games against Russia, Denmark and Finland, Belgium ended Portugal’s title defence with a 1-0 victory at the last-16 stage of what is, on paper, the far tougher side of the draw.
Belgium v Italy odds with William Hill…
- Belgium to win in 90 minutes: 12/5
- Draw in 90 minutes: 2/1
- Italy to win in 90 minutes: 11/8
Italy beat Turkey, Switzerland and Wales, scoring seven and conceding none, in the group stage. The Azzurri were then taken to extra-time by a stubborn Austria side in the Round of 16 but finally found the breakthrough shortly before the end of the first half. Two goals sealed the victory, but Italy did still concede to make for a nervy end.
How will Belgium and Italy line up?
Although Belgium beat Portugal in the last-16, their win was bittersweet, as they lost both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to injury. De Bruyne suffered an ankle injury in the first half and tried to continue but had to be taken off five minutes after the break, while Hazard pulled up with a hamstring problem late on.
While both players have stayed with the squad and aren’t ruled out for the tournament, they won’t be fully fit to face Italy and may not be risked.
“Our main concern at the moment is time, as the match against Italy is coming up quickly,” Roberto Martinez told reporters.
“Kevin and Eden probably won’t get 100% fit, but we will use every day to get them as fit as possible. In the event that we go through, they will be ready for the semi-final, anyway.”
Italy, meanwhile, have been boosted by Giorgio Chiellini’s return to training and according to reports he is likely to rejoin the defence, having suffered an injury in the 3-0 win over Switzerland on matchday two.
Thorgan Hazard: Making a name for himself
For a long time now, Thorgan Hazard has been known to the wider football fanbase as Eden Hazard’s little brother. At Euro 2020, though, he has become the more relevant Hazard sibling, especially after his performance against Portugal.
It was Thorgan’s first-half strike, a lovely curling effort into the far corner, that gave Belgium their 1-0 victory and the Borussia Dortmund man his second goal of the tournament. Thorgan is a forward, which is the position he plays for Dortmund and did so for Borussia Monchengladbach previously, but Martinez has used the 28-year-old as a left-wing-back for most of his international career to relative success.
At the Euros, Thorgan hasn’t operated as a wing-back who looks to cut inside. He has left all the central action to the other midfielders, instead hugging the touchline to ensure this Belgium side has width.
And yet across his last seven starts, he has scored or assisted a total of six goals, most crucially proving Belgium’s game-changer in his two most recent outings.
Before scoring the winner against Portugal, Thorgan equalised for Belgium in their Group B match with Denmark, starting the comeback in a 2-1 win. Although it was only the second game of the tournament, a defeat for Belgium could have massively shifted the way their Euro 2020 panned out. Should Thorgan extend his goalscoring streak, he will become just the second Belgium player to score in three consecutive games at a major tournament, according to Opta, alongside Marc Wilmots (2002 World Cup).
Thorgan Hazard for Belgium at the 2020 Euros so far:
▪️ 100% dribble success
▪️ Most interceptions
▪️ Most tackles made
He's even scored more goals than his brother. 😉 pic.twitter.com/yeouHiBFIk
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) July 1, 2021
We should generally avoid the Thorgan-Eden comparisons, seeing as they play different positions, but the younger of the two has now scored more goals at European Championships than his big brother, at two to one.
Aside from Romelu Lukaku, there may not be a Belgium player having a better tournament than Thorgan Hazard.
Belgium v Italy scoreline prediction:
Belgium 1-2 Italy: Belgium will be praying Thorgan Hazard can step up once again, especially if De Bruyne and Eden Hazard do miss out. But perhaps this semi-reliance on him is an unfavourable indicator of their chances against Italy.
After wowing us all in the group stages, Italy were seriously put to the test against Austria in the last-16 but overcame their stubborn opponents 2-1 in extra-time. Mancini’s men displayed the will and luck of potential champions. They might have been seen as underdogs against Belgium, but the Red Devils’ injuries and Italy’s form have convinced bookmakers to make them favourites for this clash.