Brazil 1-2 Belgium match report: World Cup 2018 quarter-final
A Fernandinho own goal and a fine strike by Kevin de Bruyne saw Belgium dump the five-time winners out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage. MLS All-Stars vs Atletico Madrid: All-Star Game live online
Belgium survived a late onslaught from Brazil to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Kazan on Friday and ensured that a European side will lift the trophy in Moscow next weekend by knocking out the five-times winners in a 2-1 victory that saw the Red Devils into the last four for the first time since 1986.
In a 45-minute whirlwind of attacking football in the opening half Roberto Martínez’s side opened up a 2-0 lead through a Fernandinho own goal and a glorious strike from Kevin de Bruyne. Belgium should probably have extended that lead further as they picked Tite’s side apart at will with lightning breaks that perfectly exploited Brazil’s high line. De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku sowed panic in the Canarinha back line every time they surged forward and only a tendency to over-elaborate and a couple of decent saves from Alisson prevented a complete rout by half time.
Brazil had their chances, Thiago Silva hitting a post early on and Thibuat Courtois making a fine stop from Marcelo but Martínez’s plan of sitting back, looking to win the ball in midfield and releasing his front three was executed to perfection with Marouane Fellaini a predictably enthusiastic wielder of the axe.
The decision to start the Manchester United battering ram proved adroit as he easily got the better of his midfield opponents and was on hand in the area to help out with anything coming into the box above the floor and to back up Thomas Meunier on the left, where Brazil channelled most of their attacking intent.
Neymar was reduced to anonymity for much of the opening period but Brazil came out firing after the break in the knowledge that Belgium had wobbled defensively a few times under pressure. Tite added Roberto Firmino to his attack for the second half and the Liverpool forward was inches away from turning in a Marcelo cross minutes after the restart.
Brazil will feel aggrieved not to have been awarded at least one penalty in the opening exchanges of the second half. Neymar went down under a Meunier challenge that was waved away by the referee but a much more solid shout came moments later when Vincent Kompany flattened Gabriel Jesus with a wild challenge that did incur the intervention of the eye in the sky. After consultation, it was decided the ball was running away from goal when Kompany met his Manchester City teammate with all the grace of a skidding snow plough and Courtois escaped scrutiny from 12 yards out.
Courtois saves Belgium from Brazil's late onslaught
The Belgium keeper would see plenty of action from that point on though as Brazil pressed for a lifeline. Courtois made several excellent saves as Tite’s side exerted a stranglehold on possession and turned it into a slew of decent chances.
Tite’s final roll of the dice proved inspirational. Renato Augusto, who had made only brief cameos in the group stage and was unused in the last 16 victory over Mexico, scored with almost his first touch, turning in a beautiful, curling cross from Philippe Coutinho.
Firmino was guilty of a dreadful miss moments later when played into a wonderful position by Neymar but Brazil suddenly had the momentum to find an equaliser, Renato almost securing the headlines with a fierce, low drive that narrowly missed Courtois’ far post.
Neymar sprung into life belatedly and handed Coutinho a golden opportunity to level but the Barça forward skewed his shot horribly wide from close range under little pressure from the Belgium defence. Martínez’s first-half tactics told on his forwards in the closing stages with both Nacer Chadli and Lukaku departing the fray exhausted. Of those that remained, only De Bruyne had anything left in the tank and Hazard was spent, but used his considerable experience to force Brazil into a couple of time-chewing fouls in midfield.
With the clock ticking down the stage was set for a hero and when the ball left Neymar’s boot deep into stoppage time the Brazilian talisman must have thought he would be that man but Courtois made a stunning save, pawing the ball away from the top corner. Belgium’s forward line may have carried the fight in the first half but it was the Chelsea keeper who ensured that the game would not go into an extra 30 minutes and his side would remain in Russia.
Brazil, the last non-European nation to win the World Cup on the old continent, had used their last bullet and despite their late charge will be heading home, their bid to emulate that great Canarinha side of 1958, led by Pelé and Garrincha, in tatters.
Martínez, meanwhile, has the opportunity to take his golden generation one step further than the Enzo Scifo-inspired Red Devils of 1986 and into a World Cup final for the first time in the nation’s history when they meet France in Saint Petersburg.
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