Kevin De Bruyne’s (pictured) brilliant strike took Belgium into the semi-finals of World Cup after 32 years with a 2-1 win over Brazil at Kazan Arena on Friday.
Brazil dominated but Fernandinho’s own goal in the 13th minute and wasted chances that followed proved costly for them. Their worries deepened after De Bruyne struck for Belgium in the 31st minute.
With a comfortable lead after half an hour of play, Red Devils began frustrating Brazilian forwards by playing a defensive game with their tall defender Thomas Meunier standing like a rock and keeper Thibaut Courtois pulling off some incredible saves.
In the second half, Brazil continued their domination but the goal still eluded them. Desperation forced their creativity to emerge. Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Marcelo Vieira kept their cool and frustrated Belgium’s defenders with surprise moves and fast footwork. Their efforts paid off in the 76th minute when Coutinho’s pinpoint cross was headed home by substitute Renato Augusto.
Brazil mounted pressure on Belgium for the equaliser but Coutinho failed to score from a Neymar cross. In the dying seconds, Courtois denied Neymar. As the final whistle blew, Brazil became the fifth big team to exit World Cup after Germany, Argentina, Spain and Portugal.
Brazil made a bright start and could have scored a goal each through Thiago Silva and Paulinho. In the 7th minute, João Miranda’s corner kick came to Silva who was in position to drive it home. With only Courtois before him, Silva fumbled and took the ball on his knee and the keeper easily collected it. Soon, Paulinho’s got a chance from a corner from Willian but his shot went wide.
Brazil paid the price in the 13th minute when Vincent Kompany tried to head in a corner from Nacer Chadli. The ball hit Fernandinho in the upper arm as he rose to clear it and went in.
Stung by own goal, Brazil went for the equaliser. The shots of Coutinho, Neymar and Fernandinho were saved by Courtois and Gabriel Jesus failed to drive home a perfect Neymar cross from close range.
In the 31st minute, Lukaku raced past three Brazilian midfielders and passed the ball to De Bruyne who sent a powerful shot to the left corner past a diving Alisson.
Marcelo kept troubling Belgium defenders but his crosses were wasted by Gabriel Jesus and others.
At break, Brazil faced the challenge of coming into the game after trailing by two.
Brazil continued their onslaught in the second half without scoring and Belgium played safe by being on the defensive. It was a mind game to determine which side will crack under pressure. While Belgium’s defenders appeared exhausted, Brazilian forwards began to show desperation as they vainly appealed for penalties.
Neymar lost balance and fell in the box while trying a header. The referee Milorad Mazic refused penalty as Meunier did not push him. Brazil again appealed when Vincent Kompany challenged Jesus. The video referee turned down the appeal but many watching the game were not convinced.
After a long wait, Brazil finally scored their lone goal in the 76th minute with a powerful header by Augusto from a Coutinho cross past a diving Courtois.
Inspired by the goal, Brazil pressed for the equaliser. An unmarked Augusto had a golden chance to score again five minutes later but his 20-yard shot wide.
Three minutes later, Coutinho missed a great chance when all he needed was tap home a Neymar cross. Instead, he shot it wide.
In the dying seconds, Neymar sent a classy curler but Courtois made a brilliant save.
Brazilians fans were in tears when the final whistle blew as their team played well, created many chances but still were unable to emerge the winner.
Belgium will meet France in the semi-final on Tuesday.