BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium have no qualms about having to face holders Portugal in the next round of the European Championship, defender Toby Alderweireld said on Thursday, suggesting easier opponents might have dampened their aggression.
“I don’t think you can be pleased or displeased about an opponent,” he told reporters after Portugal finished third in Group F after last-gasp drama at the conclusion of the group phase on Wednesday.
With Hungary leading Germany and Portugal level with France, going into the closing stages of both Group F games, Belgium were on course to meet Hungary rather than Portugal in the last 16 in Seville on Sunday.
But a late German equaliser in Munich pushed Portugal down to third and eliminated the Hungarians.
“Suppose we had to meet Hungary instead and then everyone starts to think ‘this is going to be easy’. That sort of attitude is very difficult to convert into the aggression you need for these kind of games. We are now going to meet a top team and that forces us to put our best foot forward,” Alderweireld said.
“I think they (Portugal) are a very difficult team to beat, they have a lot of quality, the team is very compact, they know how to play big games in big tournaments. And they have a lot of experience as well, so I think we are going to have to be top to beat them.
“Of course, everyone talks of Cristiano Ronaldo, he is one of the best in the world but they have not only him but also a lot of quality around him, who create chances for him.”
But Alderweireld insisted top-ranked Belgian were “very hungry and desired to achieve” success at the Euro 2020.
“We have enough experience together and everyone knows exactly what to do, The players who will play will be ready,” he told a news conference on Thursday.
Alderweireld also parried concerns over pitch conditions in Seville, which were criticised in the early rounds.
“We are a team that wants the ball but we’ll just have to make sure that the conditions become an advantage. The field should not be an excuse.
“We have already played three away games. We had the experience of taking on Denmark in their backpack and there we showed that we could rise above all the factors against us,” he added.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond)