Courtois seeks unprecedented coronation for member of the great Belgian generation

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Courtois seeks unprecedented coronation for member of the great Belgian generation

The clock was already 42 minutes into the second half when Manchester City had a chance to extend their lead over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The ball was at the feet of Jack Grealish, who invaded the area from the left and finished in a cross. On the other side, however, Thibaut Courtois made the save that kept the Spaniards alive in the dispute for a spot in the Champions League final.

Before Rodrygo had the chance to score two goals, in the 45th and 46th minutes, forcing extra time, the Real goalkeeper had already made at least four saves throughout the duel that were decisive for the outcome of the game – Benzema set the score. in extra time, 3 to 1, classifying the hosts.

Real Madrid’s trajectory until the decision of the biggest club tournament in Europe, especially in the knockout stage, had some unlikely comebacks and dramatic games. In all of them, shirt 1 had as important participation as the team’s forwards.

The final challenge will be next Saturday (28), in the decision with Liverpool, at 16h, in Paris.

The Belgian is experiencing his best phase in the team since his arrival in Madrid in 2018. He arrived in Spain shortly after having had a good World Cup individually and collectively with the Belgium national team, which only fell in the semifinals, against champions France. in Russia.

In the previous phase, he also made important saves in the match in which his team eliminated Brazil. In the final stage, when Tite’s men were trying to react after conceding two goals in the first half, Courtois avoided a goal from Neymar going to get the ball almost at the angle.

From the height of his 1.99 m, the goalkeeper showed talent, standing out as one of the exponents of the praised generation of which he is a part, considered the strongest in the history of Belgium.

“For me, Courtois made the difference”, declared Tite shortly after the Brazilian defeat, in a game in which the archer made at least six difficult saves.

Elected best goalkeeper at the last World Cup, he aroused interest from Real Madrid shortly after the Cup, but faced some resistance when he decided to switch from Chelsea to the Spanish team. After all, he arrived to steal the title from Costa Rican Keylor Navas, owner of the post in the three-time Champions League title in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and much loved by the fans.

The Belgian, however, would not take long to win over the madridista fans. Although it showed some fluctuations, it was an important part of the conquests of two Spaniards (2019/20 and 2021/22), two Spanish Super Cups (2019/20 and 2021/22) and a Club World Cup (2018).

The only thing missing was more success in the Champions League, a competition he almost won in the 2013/14 season, when he defended Atlético de Madrid. The team reached the decision, but ended up being surpassed precisely by Real Madrid.

The title is also missing from the gallery of the main players of the Belgian generation that has been standing out on the world stage, especially since the 2014 World Cup. The group includes names such as Alderweireld, Kompany, Meunier, Witsel, Fellaini, Carrasco, Hazard, Tielemans , Dembele, Lukaku, De Bruyne and Mertens — some of them now in decline or retired.

There were those who hit the crossbar, as was the case with De Bruyne. He was a finalist in the 2020/21 season, but saw his team, Manchester City, be defeated by Chelsea, 1-0. Among the less important names of the same generation, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was part of the Liverpool squad that won the title. 2018/19 Champions League, but as a reserve for Brazilian Alisson.

Courtois is the newest candidate to be a Belgian protagonist. And he’s been proving stage after stage of Europe’s biggest club tournament that he’s prepared for it.

In the round of 16, he saved a penalty from Lionel Messi that avoided an even greater disadvantage against Paris Saint-Germain, in France, where the hosts won 1-0.

With good interventions in the return game, although he again conceded a goal from Kylian Mbappé, he helped his team to seek the first comeback, 3-1.

In the quarterfinals, against Chelsea, he also made difficult saves in London, mainly in a shot by César Azpilicueta, holding the good advantage that Real had built, with 3 to 1 on the scoreboard.

On the way back, he didn’t have much to do when the English opened up a three-goal lead, but he was able to prevent an even bigger rout until Rodrygo and Benzema commanded the Madrid reaction. In the semifinals, against City, more important defenses, another turn.

“The road has been difficult,” said Courtois. “But when Real Madrid go to the final, it’s to win.”

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