Following Cristiano and Messi's World Cup exit last weekend, Neymar is the latest big name player to see his side exit the Russia World Cup following Brazil's defeat to Belgium in Kazan last night. As was the case at Euro 2016, for many the Belgians were the tournament "dark horses" and under the guidance of Lleida native Roberto Martínez the "Red Devils" find themselves in their first World Cup semi-final since 1986. The first half of the game in Kazan was highly impressive with the Belgian side launching wave after wave of rapid counter attacks against a Brazil side who dearly missed Casemiro marshalling the midfield. Tite's men rallied in the second half and it was goalkeeper Courtois who saved the day for the European side pulling off save after save to secure the semi-final spot.
If Belgium offered a masterclass in the art of counter attacking football in the first period with De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku wreaking havoc for the Brazilian rearguard, the second 45 minutes saw Brazil exhibit the attacking talent they possess as a team. Douglas Costa caused problems on the right flank with Marcelo always a threat on the left as Neymar moved into a more central role with the PSG striker seemingly more intent on trying to win a penalty instead of trying to score. Coutinho and Firmino threatened on the finge of the area with Renato Augusto making runs from deep. It made for an enthralling half of football and Brazil gave their all in the quest to tie the match. Credit is due however to Roberto Martínez and his Belgium side for adopting and implementing to perfection an audacious game-plan.
France march on
Brazil join Uruguay on the plane home with the "Celeste" earlier beaten in Nizhny by France which leaves us with no South American representation at the tournament. Didier Deschamps has a well drilled and disciplined side with Atletico's Antoine Griezmann always providing danger for opposing defenders. Uruguay clearly missed that threat that Edinson Cavani offers and Luis Suarez had one of his quieter games. France now face Belgium in what should be an excellent semi-final. I must add that I was disappointed with Mbappé yesterday. Following a complete performance from the young player against Argentina last weekend, the striker was absent yesterday and even found himself involved in petty incidents, feigning injury and fighting with the opposition players. Has too much praise gone to his head? Certainly something that Deschamps will need to address...