Belgium booked their place in the World Cup semi-finals with an eye-catching 2-1 victory over Brazil on Friday evening.
Roberto Martinez’s men turned in a wonderful first-half showing and headed into the break deservedly two goals to the good as Fernandinho’s own goal in the 13th minute and De Bruyne’s wonderful strike after half an hour put them in control. Brazil were much better after the break and found a lifeline as Renauto Augusto headed home with 15 minutes remaining. However, the Belgians were able to hold on and organise a last-four tie with France.
Chances for both sides in the early stages
Kevin De Bruyne had the first sight of goal after starting the game in a more advanced position. His low effort fizzed just wide of the post.
Thiago Silva then spurned an excellent opportunity for Brazil from a corner. Escaping Vincent Kompany, the Paris Saint Germain man volleyed against the post. Belgium then created their own chance from the resultant count-attack. Romelu Lukaku powered down the left-wing and cut the ball back. Eden Hazard latched onto it with his shot being charged down before Nacer Chadli let fly from distance, sending the ball wide.
Paulinho could not go one better from another corner as he got free from his marker but could not make a telling connection with the ball.
Fernandinho own goal gives Belgium perfect start
Brazil eventually did score from a corner, however it was in the wrong net. Chadli’s corner caused trouble for Tite’s men and Fernandinho rose to clear. Instead, the ball spun off of his forehead and flew past Alisson to give Belgium the lead.
The Brazilians almost responded immediately as Neymar crossed to Gabriel Jesus. The ball was slightly behind the Manchester City man though and he was not able to turn it home. Phillipe Coutinho then tested Thibaut Courtois with a powerful, low effort but the Chelsea man collected comfortably.
De Bruyne dynamite doubles the lead
A stunning counter-attack saw Roberto Martinez’s men extend the lead even further through De Bruyne. Romelu Lukaku picked the ball up in his own half and powered towards the Brazilian goal. Fighting off numerous challenges, he then played in the Manchester City man whose low shot arrowed into the bottom corner.
Gabriel Jesus should have given the Selecao a lifeline but his header drifted wide. Coutinho then looked to curl into the far corner from outside of the penalty area but a great stop from Courtois preserved Belgium’s lead.
Belgium continued to create the majority of the chances, though. De Bruyne went close from a free-kick that Alisson had to palm over the bar. Kompany also threatened a third from the resultant corner as he flicked towards goal with a backheel but the Brazilian stopper held firm yet again.
Brazilian improvement after the break
Brazil were much-improved after half-time. Marcelo produced a great, low cross towards substitute Firmino but the Liverpool man was just inches away from making a connection. Neymar then went down in the box but a penalty was not forthcoming for the Brazilians following a VAR review.
Jesus then showed great skill to get past Vertonghen and then was also brought down in the penalty area by Kompany but again a spot-kick was not awarded.
Belgium spurn the chance to finish Brazil off as Augusto gives hope
Martinez’s men continued to use their most dangerous weapon – the counter-attack. De Bruyne fed Eden Hazard, who in turn could have crossed to Lukaku. Instead, he looked for goal himself and sent his effort whistling just wide.
An excellent header gave Tite’s troops some hope of a semi-final berth with 15 minutes left on the clock. Coutinho crossed to substitute Renauto Augusto, and with a powerful header, the latter nodded into the bottom corner to cut Belgium’s advantage to one.
The game was really starting to swing in Brazil’s favour and Firmino did have the chance to equalise but blazed his shot just inches over the crossbar. Augusto should also have struck as he was played through by Coutinho. With no pressure on him, he should have scored but clipped the base of the post. Another chance fell to Coutinho after great play from Neymar but the Barcelona man somehow put his effort well wide of goal.
Neymar did have one last chance as his tremendous, curling effort from the edge of the area was somehow tipped over by Courtois. As a result, Brazil were simply not able to find an answer and exited the competition in the quarter-finals.
It would be fair to say that Belgium’s progression to the semi-finals could mostly be down to their brilliant first-half performance. They fought harder than Brazil, created more chances and simply out-classed the tournament champions. Their counter-attacking style of play was exhilarating to watch and was very well summed-up by their wonderful second goal. They deservedly take their place in the semi-finals.
Brazil: Alisson (6); Marcelo (7), Miranda (6), Silva (6), Fagner (6); Paulinho (7) (Augusto (7), 73′), Fernandinho (6), Coutinho (7); Willian (6) (Firmino (6), 46′), Jesus (6) (Costa (6), 61′), Neymar (6).
Belgium: Courtois (7); Vertonghen (7), Kompany (8), Alderweireld (7); Chadli (7) (Vermaelen (N/A), 83′), Fellaini (8), Witsel (7), Meunier (7); Hazard (8), Lukaku (8) (Tielemens (N/A), 87′), De Bruyne (8).
Goals: Fernandinho OG (13′), De Bruyne (31′), Augusto (76′)
Referee: Milroad Mazic
Yellow Cards: Alderweireld (47′), Meunier (71′), Fernandinho (85′), Fagner (90′)
Red Cards: N/A
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