'We stopped playing against Portugal' - Belgium must be braver to beat Italy in Euro 2020 quarter-finals, says Witsel

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Axel Witsel has admitted that Belgium "stopped playing" in the final twenty minutes against Portugal, and says they will have to be braver to beat Italy in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.

Belgium reached the last eight of the summer tournament after earning a 1-0 win in their Round of 16 tie with Portugal, with a stunning first-half strike from Thorgan Hazard ultimately proving to be the difference between the two sides.

The Red Devils were a touch fortunate to come out on top, however, having spent most of the second 45 minutes camped in their own half, and Witsel has warned that they cannot afford to take their foot off the gas in the same way when they meet Italy.

Witsel's rallying cry

Asked to assess Belgium's chances against Italy, who recorded a 2-1 win over Austria after extra time to qualify for the quarter-finals, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder told a pre-match press conference: "I think we have more players who can make the difference individually, they have a very strong unit especially.

"It will be a battle and I think we will have to be brave. Not like in 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 sat out Belgium's opening group game against Russia as he continued his recovery from a serious Achilles injury, but has featured all three of their subsequent fixtures at the Euros.

"I am very happy that I have been able to play three matches already," the 32-year-old added on his current condition. "Of course it was tough, because I was physically behind.

"The second day after the first match was tough, but I recovered well. I feel ready for Italy."

Who could Belgium play in the semi-finals?

If Belgium make it past Italy, they will be rewarded with a last-four tie against either Croatia's conquerors Spain or Switzerland, who knocked reigning world champions France out on penalties in the last round.

Martinez's side would then be on course to meet one of the four teams on the other side of the draw in the final at Wembley, with England set to face Ukraine and Denmark scheduled to battle the Czech Republic in the remaining quarter-final ties.

What else did Witsel say?

Witsel also opened up on his club career journey, which has also seen him take in spells at Standard Liege, Benfica, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Chinese outfit Tianjin Quanjian.

The experienced playmaker was touted for a switch to Italian giants Juventus at one stage, but insists he wouldn't change anything about the path he has taken through the professional ranks.

"I had the chance to sign there [for Juve] a few times, but I chose another destination," said Witsel. "I certainly don't regret that. I would take every decision I made again."

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