The South Americans were defeated in the midfield battle against the Red Devils.
In the most high-profile quarter-final between arguably two of the most talented sides at the World Cup, Belgium secured a well-deserved 2-1 victory over Brazil at the Kazan Arena. The Belgians looked to run away with the match leading 2-0 by the 31st minute, but Brazil clawed back into the game and came very close to forcing added time. However, the Europeans managed to hold on and secured their place in the last four for the first time since 1986.
Here are the takeaways from the fixture.
Watch: Brazil 1-2 Belgium highlights
5. Belgium’s attacking play was precise and potent
Despite Brazil giving the Belgian defence nervy moments in the opening ten minutes, the Red Devils recovered and played a great half of football that ultimately won them the game.
They were constantly winning the ball in midfield and countered with pace and precision, the second goal a great testament to that. They looked threatening every time they broke forward.
4. Kevin De Bruyne was massive for Belgium
A lot of hopes were riding on Kevin De Bruyne at the World Cup, but he looked far from his usual best in all the previous outings. However, against Brazil, the playmaker finally looked the player who was the focal point in Manchester City’s record-breaking title triumph last season.
He was setting things up with some of his trademark defence-splitting passes from midfield and scored from a thumping shot that gave the Brazilian goalkeeper absolutely no chance.
3. Brazil sorely missed Casemiro in midfield
Brazil were overrun in midfield by the impressive physical double pivot of Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel. They felt the absence of Casemiro in the destroyer role, who was out following suspension.
His replacement Fernandinho had a very poor night as he struggled physically in the middle of the park and was dispossessed numerous times.
2. Thibaut Courtois is Belgium’s ace in the World Cup
The Belgian defenders did their job well enough, but they have to be really thankful to their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who played a great role in taking Belgium over the line.
The Chelsea shot-stopper played one of the games of his career as he made a string of impressive stops over the 90 minutes. The full stretch save in stoppage time to deny Neymar in particular, was spectacular.
1. Brazil choked again at the quarterfinals
After the heartbreak of the last World Cup held on home soil, Brazil were determined to make amends this time around. Coach Tite had, with great tactical nous and attention to detail, resurrected the Selecao and he arrived in Russia with one of the best Brazilian sides in recent times.
However, despite having those star names, the South Americans once again exhibited a lack of mental fortitude in crunch games like in the previous three World Cups. The competition’s most successful side ever missed out on the chance to extend their supremacy and the wait for a first title since 2002, goes on.