Belgium stun Brazil to reach semis

Grant SmithJul 09, 2018

It's the latest surprise in a tournament full of upsets, which has included Spain's shocking loss to Russian Federation in the knockout rounds and, even more surprisingly, Germany crashing out of the group stage.

At this World Cup he has presented himself as so much more than a goalscorer: an organiser, a motivator, a menace with his runs outside the box, the binding force for Belgium's attacks, their de facto leader.

Of the remaining teams, France, another popular pick to win it all at the outset, is likely the new favorite. They were defeated by a nation's golden generation of players, a team consisting of talismans like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany. Or maybe this is year that England finally, finally, wins another major global tournament. De Bruyne, playing in a more advanced role than he had in Belgium's previous four matches, was at the heart of his team's best work, managing the transition from rearguard defence to attack with vision, pace and accuracy. And then there's this.

"Brazil adapted better in the second half".

The ploy proved a masterstroke as De Bruyne tied Brazil's defence in knots in a brilliant opening half, scoring a stunning 31st minute goal to double the lead after Fernandinho's own goal.

Sweden take on England in the first quarter-final at the Samara Arena at 7.30 pm while hosts Russian Federation face Croatia later in the day at 11.30 pm at the Fisht Stadium.

Not when Courtois was proving to be an impenetrable barrier in the Belgium goal, denying Marcelo's strike before the lead was extended by De Bruyne.

Brazil were nearly caught out as they pushed forward but Eden Hazard fired wide after another quick counter-attack.

Tite had replaced suspended holding midfielder Casemiro with Fernandinho in his starting line-up, handing the Manchester City player his first World Cup start since he was hauled off at halftime on Brazil's way to the humiliating 7-1 semifinal defeat to Germany in 2014.

Brazil were almost back on level terms twice soon after, but Augusto fired his shot from just outside the area wide of goal before Coutinho skied a shot from Neymar's laid-off pass well over the bar. The Europeans were happy in letting Brazil enjoy the possession as long as the passage of play in the midfield was blocked.

"I'm the proudest man on earth because I gave the players a very tough tactical assignment and the way they believed until the last second was incredible", he said.

Earlier Friday, Raphael Varane's glancing header and a goalkeeping blunder that gifted Antoine Griezmann a soft goal gave France a 2-0 victory over Uruguay in the first quarter-final.

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