Joao Moutinho urged his Portugal team-mates not to go overboard trying to stop Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne in their Euro 2020 last-16 tie on Sunday.
De Bruyne has lit up Belgium’s last two performances having missed their opening game in Group B match against Russia with the facial injury he picked up in the Champions League final.
A brilliant assist and winning goal saw the Manchester City playmaker inspire Roberto Martinez’s side to a 2-1 win over Denmark having come off the bench at half-time.
Belgium made it three consecutive wins after a 2-0 victory over Finland with De Bruyne laying on Romelu Lukaku’s third goal of the tournament.
De Bruyne has only played 134 minutes at Euro 2020 and has created five chances with an expected assists (xA) value of 1.18.
Since (and including) the 2014 World Cup, De Bruyne has created 71 chances in major tournaments (Euros and World Cup), more than any other European player in that time.
Moutinho will be one of those charged with stifling De Bruyne’s influence, but warned about singling out the player for too much attention.
“Kevin is very competent, we have to be careful but not just focus on one player,” Portugal midfielder Moutinho told a media conference.
“If he has space to play it’s even more dangerous. But if all of them have space, they will play their game calmly and that will make our job difficult.
“That would set the others free and that would be even worse. As a team we will try to minimise their strengths and put ours into practice, not only focus on De Bruyne.
“If the manager thinks I’m the player with the characteristics to face Belgium, I’ll do that. Try to impose my experience and the pace of the game that interests us the most.
“I’m available to give my best, that’s what we all want to do, for the team to achieve its goals.”
Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has dubbed the match a “final” and acknowledged the defending champions must improve on their displays in the group stage.
“We know that we are going to have a competent opponent. I believe, I hope and I am convinced that we will be more competent,” he said.
“To reach the final, this is the first final. What we have to do is not to give space. The team that defends better, knows how to manage the ball better and create opportunities, will win the game.”
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