Friday, July 6, 2018
Brazil 1-2 Belgium
(Mirror.co.uk) Belgium's golden generation produced unquestionably its finest display with a magnificent first-half performance as they dumped Brazil out of the World Cup.
The Red Devils hadn't lost in 23 matches, since falling to a friendly defeat to Spain in September 2016, but were far from convincing in their last 16 win over Japan, when they fell 2-0 down before coming back to win.
In contrast, the five-time world champions had sauntered into the quarter-finals with four wins from four and having barely moved much past third gear.
But the tournament favourites had no answer to a superb opening 45 minutes from Roberto Martinez's side and were unable to recover, falling to a 2-1 defeat.
Brazil had the first opportunity of the game and should have taken the lead through veteran centre-half Thiago Silva. Neymar's in-swinging corner evaded heads at the near post and took the Paris Saint-Germain defender by surprise as it bounced up off his knee, allowing a grateful Thibaut Courtois to make the save.
Soon after, the Selecao were punished.
Just 13 minutes were on the clock when Belgium took the lead, a Manchester City connection sending the European fans in Kazan into delirium.
From their own left wing corner, Kevin de Bruyne fired into the near post, Vincent Kompany ran across the line and glanced on, and bounced in off the unwitting Fernandinho - only starting due to Casemiro's suspension - to put Belgium in front.
Belgium were threatening every time they attacked, a front trio of De Bruyne - pushed forwards having been stationed in front of his own defence in Russia so far - Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard asking all kinds of questions of a defence that had conceded just once in its previous four games.
Questions have been asked of this Belgium side's mentality for big games, but they seemed hell bent on putting those to bed here and, just after the half hour mark, they doubled their advantage.
Another slick, free-flowing counter attack saw Lukaku drive through the heart of the field from deep inside his own area, before feeding out to De Bruyne on the right.
He took a touch out his feet, and a second, before unleashing an unerring drive into the far corner, giving Alisson no chance.
Brazil came on strong in the second period, with Neymar busy - when not arguing with officials - as they looked to get back into things.
But as Tite pushed his men forwards, bringing on Roberto Firmino and going 4-2-4, Martinez thoughtfully combated with his own changes.
But Brazil pushed and should have had a penalty when Gabriel Jesus was clattered by Vincent Kompany; only the VARs will know quite why that wasn't a spot-kick,
Pressure eventually told with substitute Renato Augusto heading home to make it a nervy finish after an impudent chipped pass from Philippe Coutinho.
Augusto also went close moments later, while Coutinho himself missing a guilt-edged chance when teed up brilliantly by Neymar.
In the 92nd minute, Courtois showed his class with a superb stop to deny Neymar, the giant keeper tipping over the bar as Brazil's No.10 looked to find the top corner.
But Martinez's men held on for a statement victory and booked a semi-final spot against France.
Uruguay 0-2 France
France are into the World Cup semi-finals after a 2-0 victory over Uruguay in Nizhny Novgorod.
Didier Deschamps' men turned in one of the performances of the tournament against Argentina in the last round but were not at their best here.
Uruguay, who were without striker Edinson Cavani, frustrated their opponents for the large part but goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann sent France through.
Varane glanced in Griezmann's free-kick to open the scoring before Fernando Muslera made a shocking mistake from the Atletico Madrid star's long-range effort.
Muslera attempted to palm away Griezmann's drive but ended up turning the ball into his own net to end Uruguay's faint hopes of a comeback.
France will now face Belgium in the semi-final on Tuesday.