Belgium defeat Brazil to send diving Neymar home

Belgium finally came of age in the World Cup, defeating the last superpower in the tournament, five-time winners, Brazil, 2-1 in an entertaining encounter at the Kazan stadium.

Belgium brought Mouroune Fellaini and Nacer Chadli into the starting line up, while Brazil recalled Marcelo at left back and the injured Casemiro replaced by Fernandinho.

In a frantic opening to the match, the first opportunity fell to Brazil through captain, Miranda’s header from a corner kick ricochet off Tiago Silva’s knee onto the post but Courtois gracefully claimed. Paulinho should have done better with his shot when another corner kick found him free on the penalty spot. The first corner kick for Belgium, however, was Brazil’s undoing. Kevin De Bruyne’s near post delivery was diverted in by Fernandinho’s elbow to hand Belgium a 1-0 lead.

Despite Brazil accumulating six shots in the first thirty minutes, Belgium doubled the lead with their first shot on target through Kevin De Bruyne on 32 minutes through another fast counter-attack, just like they punished Japan with the winning goal in the previous round. The Belgian defense dealt with another Brazil corner kick and Lukaku charged forward with the loose ball before picking out De Bruyne on the edge of the area and the Manchester City playmaker lashed his shot into the bottom far corner and beyond Alisson Becker to make it 2-0.

Brazil’s star players, Neymar, Coutinho, and Willian were kept quiet after their first ten minutes show, but the Samba boys still fashioned out chances through Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho.

Belgium, however, had the upper hand with the captain, Hazard and De Bruyne running the show as the Red Devils went into the halftime break with a well deserved two-goal lead.

Coach, Tite, brought Firmino on for Willian and Brazil, again, dominated the first ten minutes of the half. Firmino almost got on the end of Marcelo’s cross, Coutinho had a shot blocked, Neymar dived in hope for a penalty, while VAR did not deem Kompany’schallenge on Gabriel Jesus worthy of a penalty.

Belgium, sitting deep, nearly delivered another sucker punch on the hour from another counter, Hazard’s shot going just wide of the far post.

Belgium continued to sit deep and invited Brazil onto them, Douglas Costa’s shots were well saved by Courtois. The Brazilians eventually reduced the deficit through Renato Augusto in the 74the minute, converting Philip Coutinho’s cross with a downward header. Firmino and goalscorer, Augusto, both had excellent chances to equalize but they both shot wide.

Roberto Martinez instructed his wards to slow down the pace of the game and made two late substitutions to waste more time.

Neymar continued his one-man diving contest but had almost equalized with a curling shot which Courtois, in inspired form, tipped over, and the full-time whistle confirmed Brazil’s exit from the tournament.

Belgium will slug it out against France, who earlier in the day defeated Uruguay, in the semi-final encounter to be played on 10 July at the Saint Petersburg stadium.