Belgium, Portugal in goalless draw

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Brussels, June 3 (IANS) Belgium and Portugal played out a goalless draw here in a friendly match in preparation for the imminent FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The European champions could not count on Cristiano Ronaldo in Saturday’s match and Belgian stars Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku or Kevin de Bruyne did not shine, reports EFE news agency.

With 50 percent possession and three shots on goal for each team, those of Roberto Martínez, with his usual 3-4-2-1 in Belgium; and those of Fernando Santos, who drew a 4-3-3 for Portugal, they made a game of tactical control with few mistakes.

Lukaku was able to open the scoring in the first minute of play, and the Belgians returned to caress the goal with a chance by Yannick Carrasco on the left of the area half an hour into the game.

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Shortly before, Portugal, first rival of Spain on Jun. 15 in Russia, had sent a warning with a long shot from João Moutinho that Thibaut Courtois diverted to the corner.

The Monaco midfielder returned to try his luck with a shot at half distance that the Chelsea goalkeeper caught in two stages.

The players went to the locker room tunnel after a first half without great surprises or genius, with a Belgium more present playing in front of their audience and a well-planted Portugal despite the absence of its great star.

Cristiano Ronaldo has not yet joined the national team after winning the Champions League last Saturday in Kiev with Real Madrid.

In a match that allowed up to six changes per team, the Belgian coach replaced Dries Martens in the second half with Real Sociedad midfielder Adnan Januzaj.

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Nacer Chadli for Carrasco, Marouane Fellaini for Moussa Dembélé and Christian Benteke for Lukaku also entered at the beginning of the second half. And in the 58th minute Vincent Kompany, a regular in the infirmary, asked to give up his position because of muscle problems and in came Dedryck Boyata.

Santos introduced the first change of Portugal in the 65th minute, when Gelson Martins left his post to the veteran Ricardo Quaresma.

As in the first half, Belgium dominated the opening stages of the second and enjoyed a new scoring opportunity in the 64th, when Eden Hazard served Thomas Meunier, who came on strong but was deftly deflected by Portugal’s goalkeeper Beto.

But despite the great offensive talent of the “red devils”, with attackers like Kevin de Bruyne, Hazard or Lukaku, the goal eluded them against a Portugal that never lost the rhythm of the game and that continued introducing changes gradually, giving entry to players more experienced, such as the replacement of midfielder Joao Mario, 25, by Manuel Fernandes, 32.

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With nothing at stake and the World Cup so close, no one took risks at the end of the game, lacking pace due to the continuous changes in the final section, and the spectators in the King Baudouin Stadium, among which was Pep Guardiola, were left without seeing goals.

–IANS

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