For the second time in its history, after the 1986 World Cup, Belgium will be back in the final quarter of a World Cup. Two years ago, in France, the Red Devils were expected to win the Euro. They had been pitifully taken out in quarters by Wales (3-1). This year, in Russia, Belgium was again placed among the outsiders. She met expectations by taking Brazil out this Friday with flying colors and will be back in France in demies on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg.
The Belgians, who mostly left the ball to their opponent (41% possession), punished the Brazilians on set pieces and on the counter. With a courteous in great shape (see also), a lukaku over-motivated or an inspired de Bruyne, they hurt very much a Brazil lacking in efficiency and deprived of Casemiro, suspended, in the middle of the game.
The first half was spectacular with numerous opportunities on both sides. There was no round of observation and from the second minute, de Bruyne fired the first shot. Six minutes later, Thiago Silva thought he was opening the scoring when the ball fell on his thigh after a Neymar corner. The counter, roundly led by Lukaku, was concluded by an off-target shot from Chadli.
The spectators at the Kazan Arena didn’t even have time to catch their breath when Fernandinho scored against his camp after a hazard corner deflected by Kompany (13′).
That goal forced Brazil to go back on the attack to equalize quickly. The centre of Willian was hijacked by Courtois (15′), Jesus could not take back an offering from Neymar (15′), Coutinho saw his hit captured without difficulty by Courtois (19′) then Marcelo’s distant shot was hijacked by the Belgian doorman (26′).
In the half-hour of play, Lukaku gave himself a full-axe break and then served as Bruyne for Belgium’s second goal (31st), that of the break.
Brazil, knocked out, tried to come back by Gabriel Jesus (36′), Willian (36′) and Coutinho (37′) but the Belgians returned to the Dressing Room with two goals in advance after a last attempt by Bruyne on a free-kick diverted by Alison (41′).
The first two changes in Tite after the break didn’t help. Firmino, who took Willian’s place, was ghostly except for a shot at the 78th when Douglas Costa, who took Gabriel Silva’s place, showed up more but was not more effective (62nd, 71st, 75th). The third change – Paulinho replaced by Renato Augusto – paid off as the Corinthians player revived Brazil by enjoying Coutinho’s perfect service (75′). Neymar, disappointing in that game, got the match ball, but courteous, the hero of the game, pulled his shot off a great parade (90 ‘ +4).