Belgium wins, Zlatan Ibrahimovic bows out

Jun 23, 2016 - 3:11 AM Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, in a typically self-confident mood, warned that any opponents who opened up against his team would be punished after their 1-0 win against Sweden on Wednesday.

Wilmots was heavily criticised after Belgium, boasting several of the most gifted players in the tournament, began with a 2-0 defeat by Italy, but his side have bounced back to beat Ireland and Sweden.

The win, thanks to Radja Nainggolan's majestic late strike, earned Belgium a place in the last-16, where they will face Hungary.

"They were obliged to open up and if you do that against us you will be punished," said Wilmots.

"Six points from nine is very good and since the defeat by Italy we have got better, we've kept two clean sheets in a row.

"People thought we were dead after the first game but we are back on track and we have come through a very difficult group."

Belgium has finished second in Group E, behind Italy.

Wilmots' players were more cautious.

"Hungary will be tough. We saw the last minutes of their game against Portugal," said forward Eden Hazard.

"They give 200 per cent and have very good players. We need another good performance to qualify for the quarter-finals."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois agreed that Hungary, initially seen as outsiders to reach the knockouts, would be hard work.

"The last 16 is really open. But they're all difficult countries to beat. We cannot think that it (Hungary) will be an easy match," he said.

Belgium's win ensured Zlatan Ibrahimovic's international career ended in a damp squib.

The Swedes ended bottom on one point and Ibrahimovic's bold promise that he would never finish with a disappointment proved to be mistaken.

He tried in vain to inspire his team and had a second-half effort ruled out for offside but Belgium, without ever producing their most fluent football, had enough quality to deal with Sweden's sporadic attacks and create opportunities of their own.

"Zlatan has done a lot of important things in his career and would have wanted to go further here," Belgium captain and man-of-the-match Eden Hazard told reporters.

Source: AAP

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