Belgium will play France in the semifinals after beating Brazil 2-1 in the quarterfinals on Friday July 6th at the Kazan Arena in Kazan. Belgium took the lead through a Fernandinho own goal. De Bruyne doubled the lead before Renato Augusto pulled one back for Brazil.
France earlier beat Uruguay 2-0 in the quarterfinals on Friday in Nizhny Novgorod on goals from Varane and Antoine Griezmann. France are into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
France will play Belgium in the semi-final in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday July 10th.
Neymar joined Ronaldo and Messi as megastars eliminated after Brazil’s loss to Belgium.
Brazil started brightly but Fernandinho headed into his own net from a corner after 13 minutes and a stunning counter-attack saw Romelu Lukaku feed De Bruyne, who blasted home in the 31st minute.
Brazil dominated in the second half and pulled one back through substitute Renato Augusto, but Belgium held on to earn a famous victory in Kazan, despite the five-time winners creating various chances against an exhausted defence.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez changed his system from 3-4-2-1 to 4-3-3, with De Bruyne operating as a false nine and Lukaku on the right-wing, bringing in goalscoring the heroes from their last 16 comeback against Japan, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli.
Marcelo returned from injury for Brazil, with Fernandinho stepping in for the suspended Casemiro. The Real Madrid man was sorely missed as Fernandinho struggled to hold back Belgium’s fearsome, relentless attack.
Brazil could have scored twice in the first few minutes as Thiago Silva bundled the ball awkwardly against the post from a corner and Paulinho mishit a shot from close range.
They paid an immediate price when Fernandinho nodded Eden Hazard’s corner into his own net unpressured after 13 minutes.
It was the first time Brazil had trailed in a game for over a year, and before the half was out, the first time they have conceded two in a game under Tite.
Gabriel Jesus missed from six yards after Neymar’s cross found him at an awkward angle, before the rampant Lukaku set up De Bruyne for Belgium’s second goal.
Breaking downfield at speed, Lukaku charged through Brazil’s midfield before slipping the ball right to the Manchester City midfielder, who lashed a shot into the bottom corner past Alisson.
It was a beautiful counter-attack finished in sublime fashion by De Bruyne, shortly after the half hour mark, leaving Brazil facing a challenge that no side had overcome in World Cup history – winning a game after trailing by two at half-time, excluding penalties.
Brazil dominated the ball after the break but Belgium’s defence kept them at bay, while Serbian referee Milorad Mazic ignored some of the South Americans’ antics in the area, trying to claim penalties.
Neymar, who was criticized ahead of the game for having spent nearly 14 minutes on the floor cumulatively in Brazil’s first four games, flung himself down but was told to get back up.
Jesus appeared to be fouled by Vincent Kompany but the video referee dismissed Brazilian appeals for a penalty.
Brazil pulled one back when Philippe Coutinho’s superb chip was cleverly headed home by substitute Augusto in the 76th minute, setting up a frantic finale.
The midfielder should have scored his second to equalize but fired narrowly wide after bursting through on goal.
Coutinho sent another effort spinning wide as Brazil continued to create openings but failed to take any of them, with Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois tipping over a late Neymar curler to win his side the game.
Brazil had never had two goals against during Tite’s coaching tenure. This was also only Tite’s second loss, in fact. The team arrived in Russia aiming for the world title, but have been halted by a very strong Belgium team and a great goalkeeper in Courtuois.
With Brazil and Uruguay bidding farewell today, we are now guaranteed to have a European team holding the Trophy come the end. The last time we had an all-European semi-final line-up was in 2006 (Italy, France, Germany, Portugal).
“We switched things up tactically and I think in the first half we played very well, creating a lot of opportunities. Brazil changed their tactics in the second half and were better [than us], but even then we created some chances. It was a test of character in the last 15 minutes and in the end we did enough to win the match. Now we face an extraordinary team in France but any time you reach the semi-finals of a World Cup, you know you’re not going to face weak opposition. We’re on an equal footing with them and we’ll be doing everything we can to win.” Man of the Match, Kevin de Bruyne said at the post game press conference.
“Brazil have so much finesse and you know that they can cut you open. But I didn’t think for one second that the players would give up. They’ve done something special tonight and I hope everyone in Belgium is very, very proud. It has created a nice memory and we should treasure it. But now we need more energy for our next game to try to make sure we’re just as good in the semi-finals.” Belgium coach, Roberto Martinez said.
“When you play Brazil, I think you need to get a tactical advantage. Against them, there’s a psychological barrier – the yellow tops, the five world titles and everything that goes with that. So we had to be brave tactically. It was a big gamble to change things and we needed the players to believe. And today is not really about the tactics – it’s about the execution of those tactics. There were a lot of threats to stop and Hazard and Lukaku gave us that with their positioning on the pitch. Today was about their mentality and 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.” Belgium coach, Roberto Martinez added.
“Today was about the performance and being able to pose a goalscoring threat. For me, Brazil are the best team in the tournament and without a doubt the biggest threat from open play. We had to defend well for 90 minutes. But I felt our performance merited the opportunity to go through.” Belgium coach, Roberto Martinez concluded.
“I thought it was a great match and we had a lot of it, with plenty of possession and a lot of opportunities. But Belgium were more effective in converting their opportunities. They have a lot of top players and finished well. [Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut] Courtois also made a real difference. It was a very impressive game between two games with fantastic technical qualities. For all the pain I feel right now, if you like football, you have to watch this game. It’s going to give you pleasure. If you’re a neutral, you can sit back and say ‘What a match!’ Anyone who appreciate football can see that this was a beautiful game.” Brazil coach, Tite said.
“I won’t talk about my future right now – it’s not appropriate as I’m still thinking about the match. Time will tell. After two weeks, the dust will settle and we’ll have a cool head to be able to discuss it better.” Brazil coach, Tite added.
A total of 32 national football teams are participating in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, held in 11 cities across Russia between June 14 and July 15.
The teams were divided into eight groups, with four in each, and the top two from their relevant groups proceeded to the next round, known as the playoffs or the knockout stage, to keep vying for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Russia is holding its first time ever edition of the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Moscow with a spectacular opening show at the Luzhniki Stadium on the night of June 14. The World Cup is being held at 12 arenas across 11 cities with the final set to be played at Luzhniki on July 15. The 11 host cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.