The midfielder admitted that the Red Devils were lucky to win the 2016 winners in their round of 16
Axel Witsel acknowledged that Belgium had “stopped playing” against Portugal in the last twenty minutes and said they would have to be braver to beat Italy in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.
Belgium reached the last eight of the summer tournament after securing a 1-0 victory in their draw of 16 with Portugal, with a beautiful first attack from Thorgan Hazard that was ultimately the difference between the two sides.
The Red Devils were lucky to get to the top while camping for most of the second 45 minutes in their own half, and Witsel warned that they could not afford to take their foot off the gas in the same way meet Italy.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder was asked to rate Belgium’s chances against Italy, who after extra time scored a 2-1 victory over Austria to qualify for the quarter-finals: ‘I think we have more players who can make the difference individually, they especially have a very strong unity.
“It’s going to be a battle and I think we’ll have to be brave. Not like the last twenty minutes against Portugal, when we stopped playing football a bit.
“We only defended then. We must not make the same mistake again.”
Witsel put off Belgium’s first group match against Russia as he continued his recovery from a serious Achilles injury, but hosted all three of their subsequent matches in the Euros.
“I am very happy to have been able to play all three matches,” the 32-year-old added about his current condition. “Of course it was difficult, because I was physically behind.
“The second day after the first game was difficult, but I recovered well. I feel ready for Italy.”
Who can play Belgium in the semi-finals?
If Belgium overtake Italy, they will be rewarded with a final fourth draw against Croatia’s conquerors, Spain or Switzerland, who knocked out current world champions France in the final round with fines.
Martinez’s team will then be on track to face one of the four teams on the other side of the draw in the final at Wembley, while England will face Ukraine and Denmark face the Czech Republic in the remaining quarter-finals.
What else did Witsel say?
Witsel also started his club career, which also showed him at Standard Liege, Benfica, Zenit Saint Petersburg and the Chinese outfit Tianjin Quanjian.
The experienced playmaker was at one stage appointed for a switch to Italian giants Juventus, but insists he will not change anything on the path he has followed through the professional ranks.
‘I had the chance to sign there [for Juve] a few times, but I chose a different destination, “Witsel said. I certainly do not regret it. I will again make every decision I have made. ‘