The Red Devils registered a shocking victory as they sent the World Cup favorites out of the tournament.
Belgium knocked out Brazil in the quarterfinals of the World Cup on Saturday night. An own-goal from Fernandino and a stunning strike from Kevin De Bruyne was enough to see them go through, despite Renato Augusto scoring late on for Brazil.
The most talked about game of this round of matches, Brazil Vs Belgium certainly lived on to the hype that was expected from it. While Brazil set up in a 4-3-3, Belgium started off with a 3-4-3 formation. The Selecao made the better start to the game.
Thiago Silva almost gave them the lead in the 11th minute with a deflected shot coming off the crossbar, but it was a ricochet of Fernandinho that led to Belgium opening the scoring two minutes later. The Manchester City midfielder who had come in for the suspended Casemiro was off the pace for most of the game and the own-goal was probably a sign of things to come.
Watch: Brazil 1-2 Belgium highlights
Despite falling back, the South Americans refused to step up the tempo. They made a few attempts every now and then, but the Europeans were firmly in control. Following an excellent run from Romelu Lukaku in which he slalomed past the Brazilian midfield; De Bruyne struck a ferocious shot from just inside the box to make it 2-0 for the Red Devils. The Canarinhas had a real job on their hands.
Willian was unable to make much of a dent in the three-man Belgian defense so after halftime, Roberto Firmino was brought in. The effect was immediate; the Devils were pinned down in their own half for a long period. However, a combination of poor finishing and excellent saves from Thibaut Courtois ensured that the scoreline would remain unchanged. Sensing an early Mundial exit, manager Tite bought on Douglas Costa and Renato Augusto in the space of a few minutes and the Brazilians finally had their goal in the 76th minute. A delightful dink from Philippe Coutinho saw Augusto surgically head the ball beyond the reach of Courtois. The game was well and truly on.
The last 20 minutes of the game saw the South Americans throw everything at the Belgians but the breakthrough just did not come. On analyzing this game, one would have to commend the Belgian attack, especially Lukaku, Eden Hazard and De Bruyne in terms of their passing, understanding and ability to hold and control the tempo of the game.
The midfield pivot of Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel was brilliant too, with the former especially coming to the fore for maintaining his discipline throughout the game and making a series of blocks that could otherwise have been goals.
For Brazil, the absence of Casemiro obviously turned out to be a key factor, as Fernandinho looked like a deer caught in the headlights for most of the game. Willian’s lack of decisiveness and Gabriel Jesus’s inability to finish sitters cost them the game. But, questions will also be raised as to why Tite started them once again despite knowing all of the above?
Paulinho’s limited ability as a central midfielder came to the fore once again, as the five-time world champions severely lacked a ball-carrier from midfield. The lack of cutting edge from both Neymar and Coutinho, especially from the former meant that in spite of creating a horde of chances; the Hexa will not be coming to the land of Joga Bonito anytime soon.
Going forward, one can expect that a lot of questions will be asked from the manager and from the players as well, who failed to vanquish the memories of the 2014 World Cup semi-final humiliation. For Belgium though, France await in the semi-finals and that will truly be one of the games of the tournament.