Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard have been ruled out of Belgium’s Euro 2020 quarter-final against Italy in a severe blow to their tournament hopes.
Roberto Martinez, the Belgium coach, confirmed on Monday that De Bruyne and Hazard will miss the game in Munich on Friday after suffering injuries during Sunday’s 1-0 win over Portugal.
Although neither player has been automatically ruled out of the remainder of the tournament and Belgium were relieved scans revealed no serious damage, Martinez admitted there was only a “50-50” chance that two of his most important players will have recovered in time for the semi-final at Wembley next Tuesday should they overcome Italy.
De Bruyne, the Manchester City midfielder, rolled an ankle and had to be substituted in the 48th minute after a poor challenge from Joao Palhinha late in the first half that dismayed Martinez and Real Madrid forward Hazard had to be withdrawn in the final minutes after pulling up with a tight hamstring.
Martinez had feared the pair may be out of the tournament altogether and is now clinging to the hope that one or both will be back in time for a semi-final should Belgium get that far.
“It’s quite positive for us – Eden and Kevin have no structural damage,” he said. “They will remain with the squad. We won’t get them fully fit for Friday. In the next phase they will be fit to play. We take it day by day.
“We’re going to monitor them, but if we made it to the semi-finals, they could play. The odds of them playing are 50-50.”
Hazard’s previous outing against Finland six days earlier was the first time he had completed 90 minutes in 19 months after two injury plagued seasons but Martinez defended his decision to keep the Real player on the pitch.
“This is the knockout stage, you’re ahead by a goal, and it was Eden’s best match in two years,” he said. “He played very smart and intelligently so you don’t change him. We don’t work with crystal balls – that would change everything.”
Martinez felt Palhinha should already have been booked for foul on Romelu Lukaku and, as such, was annoyed the Portugal midfielder’s challenge on De Bruyne did not earn him a second yellow card. “Palhinha should have been on a yellow at the time,” he said.