Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill praised the second half efforts of his side, as they came from a goal ...Sun, Jun 11 2017
Incredible, yet awaited, performances from Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard saw Belgium achieve a four goal win over Hungary, which was harsh as the game was an open and entertaining affair.
Both sides had early half chances as Kevin De Bruyne saw his shot go just wide before Hungary’s Gergo Lovrencsics has the first shot on target, shooting tamely into Thibaut Courtois’ arms after cutting in from the right. Romelu Lukaku forced Gábor Király into a save up the other end after getting onto the end of De Bruyne cross soon after.
The Manchester City midfielder had started the game with a certain tenacity, and after another shot saw Király needing to watch his goal, he set-up the first goal of the game in the tenth minute.
With a freekick won at a distant angle to the left hand side of the box, he floated in a curling cross that came perfectly to the head of Toby Alderweireld, and he powered the ball home past Király to open the scoring for the Rode Deuvils.
Both sides had influential attackers as Balazs Dzsudzsák and Lovrencsics came into the game for Hungary with the former forcing Courtois into another save with a shot from outside the box in the twenty-fifth minute.
However, as Belgian have shown in glimpses in their group matches, they can hit teams quickly on the counter with Thomas Meunier releasing Dries Mertens down the right wing with a ball over the top. The Napoli man nearly seemed confused by all the options in the box as he crossed straight into Király’s arms with Hazard and De Bruyne waiting.
This began the start of mis-communication in the attacking forwards of Belgian as several chances broke down due to delayed passing, although Lukaku was growing into the game as a creative striker, seeing a clipped ball into the box headed into the Hungarian ‘keepers’ arms by De Bruyne.
Yet there was a sense that, with the scoreline just 1-0, Hungary always had a chance to get back into the game, especially with Ádám Szalai laying the ball off well up front as Ádám Nagy and Ádám Pinter pushed forward from midfield. Wide-man Lovrencsics had their next chance as he cut in from the left but he sent his curling effort just over the crossbar.
Lukaku fired a shot well wide of the target just after the half hour mark when he really should have done better before Belgium nearly got the second goal that would restore a bit of calm in Toulouse.
On the thirty-five minute mark, a freekick on Dries Mertens gave De Bruyne a chance from just right of the centre of the box. He managed to get enough dip on the chance to go just under the crossbar but Király produced an excellent save to tip the ball onto the crossbar before the follow-up was headed clear.
Five minutes before the end, Hungary nearly made Belgium pay for not taking their chances as Lovrencsics went even closer to hitting the target as he struck the station behind the goal so forcibly, it took a moment to realise the ball hadn’t gone in.
Dzsudzsák then went close soon after but couldn’t force the ball on target. Mertens would then have a chance to get a goal for himself before halftime but a good save from Király saw the Belgians go in just the one goal up.
If the first half saw more of De Bruyne come to the fore in an attacking way, Eden Hazard made sure to make his mark on the second half, as it took him less than a minute to cut in from the left and force to Király into another save and another corner for Belgium, from which Mertens had a bouncing volley neatly handled by the Hungarian custodian.
Hungary had a chance to create a way back into the game as first Szalai fired wide of Courtois’ left hand post from an acute angle after being put through by halftime substitute Elek.
It became an end-to-end game as De Bruyne and Hazard sprayed passes from the midfield as Belgium tried to break from Hungarian possession. The former dragged a shot wide after more solid hold up play from Lukaku.
In the 55th minute, Szalai had another opportunity but saw his downward header go out for a corner after Thomas Vermaelen’s chin got a touch on the ball.
Mertens was having a good game of finding space for runs and he had another chance to get a well-earned goal but Jan Vertonghen’s cross into the box hit off him and go over the bar when he and Lukaku, just ahead of him, arguably should have scored.
Hazard was beginning to take on players more and more, and after creating an opening for Axel Witsel to lay-off to Radja Nainggolan, the Roma man fired wide of the target.
Once again though, Hungary nearly made Belgium pay as they had two golden attempts to restore parity. First Pínter saw his shot take a deflection off Alderweireld and loop up into the air, needing a strong hand from Courtois to stop it finishing up in the back of the net. From the resultant corner, Roland Juhasz couldn’t connect with his header enough to get it on target.
Juhász was then involved once more as he controlled the ball from a Dzsudzsák freekick and drilled it across the face of the goal, neither going in or finding Szalai’s outstretched leg and now Hungary were beginning to regret not taking one of these chances themselves.
Both sides made offensive changes off the bench and it was Belgium’s second that finally yielded a second goal in the match after a great moment of play.
Eden Hazard picked up the ball on the edge of the box after a cleared corner and passed to Witsel and Mertens down the side. Realising that both were offside and not going to go for his ball, the Chelsea player ran onto his own pass, cutting out the defenders, before sweeping a low ball into substitute Michy Batshuayi, who pushed the ball into the goal with his first touch of the game.
If that was good, it was going to get better a minute later, as Hazard picked up the ball on the left once more, cut inside, dropped the shoulder passed three players before firing across the diving Király to give Belgium their third goal.
Hungary tried valiantly to get a deserved goal although the found Courtois wanted his clean sheet as he just touched over a Szalai volley before holding onto a long one from Lovrencsics with less than ten minutes remaining.
There was time for one more Belgian goal though as Nainggolan released Carrasco on the counter down the left and he stroked the ball past Kiraly to seal the win for Belgium. They’ll now face Wales in the Quarter Finals and it’ll be a good luck to see how far, or how little, they have come.
Hungary: Gábor Király; Ádám Lang, Roland Juhász (Dániel Bode 79), Richárd Guzmics, Tamás Kádár; Ádám Pintér (Nemanja Nikolic 75); Gergo Lovrencsics, Zoltán Gera (Ákos Elek 46), Balazs Dzsudzsák; Ádám Szalai.
Booked: Tamás Kádár (34), Ádám Lang (47), Ákos Elek (61) Szalai (90+2).
Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Thomas Meunier, Thomas Alderweireld, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen; Radja Nainggolan, Axel Witsel; Dries Mertens (Yannick Carrasco 70), Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard (Marouane Fellaini 81); Romelu Lukaku (Michy Batshuayi 76).
Booked: Thomas Vermaelen (67), Michy Batshuayi (89), Marouane Fellaini (90+2).
Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Eden Hazard (Belgium).