Kevin de Bruyne fires Belgium past Brazil and into semi-finals

World Cup quarter-final, Kazan – Brazil 1 (Augusto 76) Belgium 2 (Fernandinho og 13, De Bruyne 31)

Belgium blew away Brazil to claim a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup, with an own goal from Fernandinho and a strike from Kevin De Bruyne giving them a 2-1 win.

Roberto Martinez’s side will face France in the final four for a place in the tournament’s final next Tuesday. Belgium will now be among the favourites to go all the way in Russia. This felt like a defining moment for the country’s most talented group of players ever.

Martinez opted for an experimental system, with Romelu Lukaku used as something of a winger, with Eden Hazard on the left and De Bruyne higher up the pitch. It worked as Belgium built a 2-0 lead in the first half, first through the own goal from a corner kick and then the second from De Bruyne after a rapid counter attack.

With Brazil’s World Cup campaign on the brink, Tite made changes for the second half, with Douglas Costa, Roberto Firmino and Renato Augusto all having an impact. It was the latter who gave Brazil a lifeline with 14 minutes left to play, heading home from a Philippe Coutinho pass.

However, the Selecao couldn’t find a second, despite chances for Renato and Coutinho to send the game into extra time – meaning that Belgium are in the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

TALKING POINT – Roberto Martinez deserves credit for masterminding this win

Belgium were booed off the pitch after their final World Cup warm-up game on home soil. Martinez was the target of much scrutiny from his own fans. They viewed the former Everton and Wigan Athletic manager to be out of his depth. They saw him squandering their country’s golden chance. Well, Martinez finally deserves some credit. He got his tactics spot on for this game, with Belgium putting Brazil to the sword on the counter attack time and time again. Kudos.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)

De Bruyne provided the highlight of the match, firing into the bottom corner to score the goal that ultimately ended Brazil’s World Cup campaign. Hazard was also a standout for the Red Devils. But it was the work of Lukaku beforehand that warranted highlighting. The Manchester United forward was key to the way Belgium played. At times, he was unplayable, driving his side up the pitch at will. This was one of his best ever displays for his national side.

PLAYER RATINGS

Brazil – Alisson 5, Fagner 5, Miranda 6, Marcelo 6, Paulinho 5, Fernandinho 5, Coutinho 6, Willian 5, Jesus 5, Neymar 6. Subs – Firmino 6, Costa 6, Renato 6.

Belgium – Courtois 7, Alderweireld 7, Kompany 7, Vertonghen 8, Meunier 8, De Bruyne 9, Witsel 7, Fellaini 8, Chadli 6, Hazard 9, Lukaku 9. Subs – Vermaelen 5, Tielemens 5.

KEY MOMENTS

9’ OFF THE POST! That should have been the opener for Brazil. The corner kick from Neymar found Silva free about four yards out, but he somehow manages to knee on to the post.

14’ GOAL! Brazil 0-1 Belgium: Against the run of play in the opening 15 minutes of this match, Belgium have scored the opening goal! It’s an own goal! The corner kick flicked off Jesus and then off Fernandinho on the way into the net. Oh dear.

31’ GOAL! Brazil 0-2 Belgium: Belgium have a real grip on this game now! What a goal! They have a two-goal lead. Lukaku did so well to hold up the ball, spark the counter attack, set up De Bruyne who found the bottom corner with a magic strike! Incredible.

38’ COURTOIS SAVE! That was very nearly an own goal. Marcelo pinged a low cross to the near post from the left wing, it picked up a deflection, but Courtois was on hand to make the save.

55’ ANOTHER PENALTY CLAIM! Jesus nutmegs Alderweireld and then goes down under the challenge of Kompany. This one looks like a penalty kick and we are going to have a VAR review.

57’ BIG LET OFF! Wow. I was convinced that the referee was going to go to an official VAR review of that incident. Kompany caught Jesus in the box. That should have been a spot kick.

76’ GOAL! Brazil 1-2 Belgium: Hold on! They’re not finished yet! Brazil have given themselves a change here. Coutinho picked out the run of Renato from deep and the sub glanced home a header from inside the penalty box. We’re in for some finale!

81’ SO CLOSE! Renato was inches away from making himself a hero here. He had a clear shot from about 16 yards out, but he puts his shot just wide of the left hand post. Courtois was rooted.

95’ WHAT A SAVE! Courtois has denied Neymar a late, late equaliser! Neymar’s shot was heading for the top corner of the net, but the goalkeeper tipped over the crossbar.

KEY STATS

Excluding own goals, Kevin De Bruyne became the 100th different player to score at the 2018 World Cup.

This was the first time that Brazil had ever conceded two goals or more under Tite.

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