Belgium finally announced themselves on the world stage by beating tournament favourites and five-time champions Brazil 2-1 in the second quarter-final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Kazan Arena on Friday night.
After falling at the last-eight stage four years ago, the Belgian Red Devils came to Russia ready to right the wrongs and after a breathtaking first-half, were in pole position to set up a semi-final with France.
Fernandinho’s own goal in the 11th minute set Roberto Martinez’s men on their way and while there was a big element of luck around their opener, the second one oozed class.
Romelu Lukaku rode a handful of challenges before showing presence of mind to set up Kevin De Bruyne and once the midfielder got the ball onto his right foot, a second goal was but guaranteed.
At 2-0 up, with little over half an hour on the clock, Brazil were in big trouble and they knew it.
With no Casemiro, who was suspended, the Samba Boys were really vulnerable at the back and if Fernandinho had a poor first-half, he wouldn’t really recover post the interval.
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Philippe Coutinho has been carrying Brazil in Russia, with star man Neymar off-colour, but even the Barcelona man found it impossible to beat an inspired Thibaut Courtois on the night.
Post the interval, the South Americans started to dictate the tempo of the tie and the half-time substitution of Roberto Firmino for Willian allowed them to flood the box at every oppurtunity.
However, with star man Neymar shackled well by Thomas Meunier, Brazil lacked that cutting edge to open up a Belgian defence marshalled by Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Vincent Kompany.
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Substitute Renato Augusto raised hopes of a Brazilian comeback with a fine header late in the tie, but this was a Belgian side that had turned the corner with their turnaround against Japan in the last round and Courtois was stopping everything Coutinho and Co. sent his way.
Earlier in the day, France had beaten Uruguay 2-0 to reach the last-four and Les Blues will take on the Belgian Red Devils in the first semi-final on Tuesday night.