Russia 2018 Watch: Belgium upset Brazil
PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 July 2018
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Tougher half of the draw?
Belgium’s reward for seeing their second string beat England’s in the group phase but a place in the ‘less easy’ section of the knockout stages.
And when they were 2-0 down against Japan in the last 16, the signs looked ominous.
But they snatched a 3-2 win in injury time to booked a quarter-final spot with tournament favourites Brazil.
And now Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry – a winner with France in 1998 – have led the Belgians into the last four for the first time since 1986.
Brazil and Belgium had met on four previous occasions in all competitions, with the Canarinho winning the last three, having lost the first ever meeting between the two sides in 1963 in Brussels 5-1.
The Brazilians won the last meeting in the World Cup 2-0 in the 2002 round of 16 – on the road to their fifth title.
And they came into the game on the back of three victories by the same 2-0 scoreline, hoping to repeat the feat against the Belgians.
The Verde e Amarela are the all-time top scorers in tournament history with 228 goals, but Belgium were on a four-game winning streak that equalled their best World Cup run of form since 2014.
They were in the quarter-finals for the second consecutive campaign for the first time ever, while the Brazilians have managed to make the last eight in every campaign since 1994.
Tite’s men very nearly opened the scoring in the seventh minute when Neymar’s delivery was diverted against the post by Thiago Silva after Miranda’s flick-on.
But six minutes later, the Belgian Red Devils went in front when Fernandinho headed into his own net following a corner from Nacer Chadli.
Kevin de Bruyne drilled home a second before the interval, but in the 54th minute, the South Americans thought they should have had a penalty when Gabriel Jesus was caught by Vincent Kompany in the box. Despite consulting with officials from VAR, referee Milorad Mažić turned down the appeals.
Brazil needed a change and brought on Roberto Firmino at half-time and then Douglas Costa to inject some fresh flare and pace into the side and ‘the flash’ – as Costa is nicknamed was causing several issues for the tiring Belgian defence, forcing Thibaut Courtois into several saves.
However, it was the Seleção’s third and final change, Renato Augusto, that proved significant as he latched onto Philippe Coutinho’s inch-perfect lobbed pass to head home past Courtois and give the Brazilians hope.
Three minutes later, Brazil should have equalised when the same two players combined – with Augusto curling the ball inches wide of the bottom corner.
In injury-time, the yellow jerseys wanted another penalty when Neymar went down (as per usual) under minimal contact from Meunier.
Again referee Mažić was quick to brush away the appeals, but Neymar, who had apparently spent a total of 14 minutes on the floor during the tournament ahead of the match, tried to make headlines for the right reason – curling a dipping effort towards the back of the net.
But Courtois tipped the effort away with a fine reaction save to deny the Brazilians and ensure an all-European last four in this most remarkable of World Cups.