Brazil stunned by Belgium in enthralling contest
Kazan [Russia], July 07: Five-time World Cup winners Brazil were on Friday knocked out of the FIFA World Cup 2018 after an own goal from Fernandinho and a stunning Kevin de Bruyne strike handed Belgium a two-goal lead, from which the Selecao couldn’t recover.
Having halved the deficit on the 76th minute mark with a Renato Augusto”>Renato Augusto header, Tite’s Brazil; who were the final South American side remaining in the competition after France defeated Uruguay earlier today; failed to force extra-time with The Red Devils advancing to the semi-finals round of the World Cup for just the second time in their history.
This was also Brazil’s fourth successive World Cup campaign that was ended by a European opponent, having previously lost to France, Netherlands and quite unforgettably to Germany in 2006, 2010 and 2014 respectively.
The Selecao started the game on a strong note, winning two corners that should have been capitalised on as early nerves from the Belgians allowed, first Thiago Silva, then Paulinho to have to have an attempt on goal.
While Paulinho scuffed his effort wide of the target, Silva was close to scoring with his tame effort striking the post.
Against the run of play, however, Martinez’s men soon drew first blood from their set-piece. Eden Hazard’s delivery from a corner was met by Vincent Kompany, with a decisive deflection from Manchester City teammate Fernandinho helping the ball past goalkeeper Alisson.
Brazil’s star attackers, particularly PSG star Neymar, were ineffective going forward in the rest of the first-half, with the World No. 2 dearly missing the services of a suspended Casemiro in breaking up Belgium’s potent attacks, with Romelu Lukaku running riot across the Brazil half.
His contributions soon resulted in a goal as after a strong charge through Brazil’s midfield, he squared the ball to de Bruyne just outside the box, with the Manchester City playmaker unleashing the sweetest of strikes across Alisson to double the Red Devil’s lead, with just 30 minutes of the 90 played.
The lead could have been further extended in the first half itself, with another Belgian counter attack, this time led by Hazard. However, the Brazilian defence managed to snuff out the danger. Soon after, Alisson was forced to make a brilliant save from a de Bruyne free kick to keep Belgium from seeing off Brazil inside the first half.
The Selecao mounted significant pressure on Belgium in the after the break in hopes of finding their way back into the contest, although, an organised Belgian backline not only kept Brazil at bay, but also helped in launching several counter-attacks.
They were breached, however, with goalkeeper Thibaut Cortois having to retrieve the ball from his net with 30 minutes of the second half elapsed, after a delicious Philippe Coutinho cross was nodded in by substitute Augusto.
Martinez brought on a couple of defensive substitutes late on to close out the win, which they successfully did, although Brazil came close to forcing an extra half an hour in the dying minutes.
Neymar was left unmarked outside the area, from where he unleashed a curler destined for the top corner, and only a match-winning save from Courtois kept it, and Brazil, out of goal, and out of the semis.
Having knocked out one World Cup favourites, Belgium will have to repeat their heroics from today to topple another favourite, France, with Les Bleus awaiting them in the first semi-final fixture on Tuesday to book their place in the Final of the FIFA World Cup 2018.