Belgium were excellent as they sensationally eliminated Brazil from the World Cup to secure their place in the semi-finals with a 2-1 victory at the Kazan’ Arena on Friday night.
- Brazil 1 Belgium 2
- Fernandinho own-goal on 13′
- De Bruyne strike on 31′
- Augusto header on 76′
— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) July 6, 2018
Belgium saw off the challenge of Brazil with a mature performance and a superb showing from Kevin De Bruyne in particular. The Selecao were missing the influence of Casemiro in midfield and after conceding twice, they never really looked like they had enough to win this game.
Fernandinho, in for Casemiro, was unfortunate to direct the first goal into his own net ahead of a brilliant strike from De Bruyne.
Renato Augusto made a big difference alongside Douglas Costa off the bench, but his goal proved to be a mere consolation as Belgium claimed a famous victory.
The match started in frenetic fashion as Belgium looked for Romelu Lukaku with a long ball early on before a shot was pulled just wide of the left upright by De Bruyne as he outmuscled Joao Miranda on the edge of the Brazil box.
Neymar and Philippe Coutinho linked up down the left flank but the former’s ball into the box was too close to Alisson.
Fellaini was the first of the Belgian players to leave something on Neymar with a tackle in the middle of the park as the Brazilian set off on a run before the fir-again Marcelo won the first corner of the game.
The delivery from Neymar was flicked on by Miranda at the near post but Thiago Silva could only deflect the ball onto the post before Thibaut Courtois dived to collect.
The action was quickly up the other end though as Nacer Chadli fired just wide before a scramble in the Belgian box. Gabriel Jesus looked to get a shot away, but only forced another corner that an unmarked Paulinho failed to direct home, after another Miranda flick.
But after Fellaini wasted a great De Bruyne pass with a toe-poked shot, Belgium were in the lead, with 13 minutes played, as a Chadli corner flew in past Alisson off the shoulder of Fernandinho as Jesus failed to connect at the near post.
Brazil responded immediately but Courtois covered a shot from Willian ahead of a blocked Jesus strike from close range.
Coutinho drew a routine save from Courtois on 19 minutes while some magic from Hazard set him free in midfield, and he found Thomas Munier, who couldn’t get his cross past Marcelo.
A touch from Lukaku as he got past Miranda in the six-yard box ended his chance to add to Brazil’s woes as Marcelo forced Courtois to make a low save from range that was cleared by Vincent Kompany.
Fernandinho and Neymar both had shots deflected away from the target as Brazil started to chase the game but Belgium were sensationally further ahead on 31 minutes after a storming run from Lukaku.
The Manchester United hitman was able to feed the ball to De Bruyne on the right, and he took a touch before picking his spot and burying the ball into the bottom left corner of the Brazilian net.
Jesus was unable to direct a 35th-minute header on target but Courtois had a busy few moments as he first did well to direct a close-range touch from Paulinho wide before keeping out a curling Coutinho drive.
Brazil were affording Hazard and De Bruyne far too much room on the counter and buoyed by their two goals, saw out the rest of the half on top.
Brazil’s response was to replace an ineffective Willian with Roberto Firmino at half-time and while Belgium remained lively, a low delivery from Marcelo from the left only needed a touch, as a penalty appeal from Neymar after a challenge of Fellaini was waved away.
Neymar drove through the Red Devils’ defence but only won a corner while Jesus ended up on the turf from Kompany’s tackle after dancing his way into the small box on the right of goal. VAR was reviewed and play was waved on.
Douglas Costa replaced Jesus on 58 minutes while Neymar continued unsuccessfully to run at the Belgian defence.
Marcelo was off target as he looked to hit a good pass from the substitute before Hazard whistled a good shot from the left wide after a swift break forward.
Paulinho was off balance, as a Costa shot, was palmed to his feet by an outstretched Courtois, and try as they might Brazil just couldn’t find a way through a very compact defence.
A period of scrappy play saw Brazilian frustrations come to the surface as they struggled to hold onto the ball in good areas, with Costa forced to shoot from range, as Hazard and Co. began to find gaps to exploit.
Augusto was coach Tite’s last throw of the dice, the player coming on for Paulinho, with 73 minutes on the clock.
Courtois beat away a Costa shot as Jan Vertonghen got in the way of Neymar’s follow up but the lanky shot-stopper was unable to keep out a superb header from the substitute, as he connected well to a Coutinho cross from the left to header the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
Firmino so nearly drew Brazil level with a shot on the turn as he collected a Neymar pass but he fired just wide, in what was his side’s 21st shot of the tie, while Augusto thought he had scored a second on 80 minutes but his shot was agonizingly wide of the left upright.
Thomas Vermaelen replaced a struggling Chadli on 84 minutes ahead of another great chance for Brazil, that Coutinho skewed wide as he arrived into the box to meet a Neymar set-up.
It remained a nervy end to the game as Brazil remained on the attack, although Hazard looked to ease the pressure when he was able to get on to the ball.
There were screams of urgency from Brazil manager Tite to get the ball forward in the dying minutes, with Belgium further breaking up the play with a substitution, coach Roberto Martinez replacing Lukaku with Youri Tielemans.
Neymar wanted another penalty but a quick check saw the touch from Meunier was negligible and despite camping the Belgium final third for the remainder of the game, a last-gasp save from Courtois kept out a fantastic curling effort from Neymar to ensure that the European side made it through to the semi-finals of the World Cup at the expense of the five-time winners.
SEMI-FINAL 1 CONFIRMED!
— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) July 6, 2018