Saturday July 7, 2018
By Aiden Graw
WORLD CUP QUARTER FINAL:
FT: FRANCE 2-0 URUGUAY [Varane, Griezmann]
FT: BRAZIL 1-2 BELIGIUM [Fernandinho OG’, De Bruyne, Agusto]
Belgium produced a brilliant performance to knock five-time winners Brazil out of the World Cup and reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1986.
Roberto Martinez’s side turned on the style in Kazan to clock up their fifth straight win of the tournament and ensure the semi-finals will be contested by four European sides for the first time since 2006.
Brazil had conceded just one goal in their past four games in Russia but were behind early when Nacer Chadli’s corner struck Fernandinho’s arm and flew into the net, the 10th own goal of this World Cup.
Fernandinho’s Manchester City team-mate Kevin de Bruyne doubled Belgium’s lead with a sublime arrowed finish from 20 yards after Romelu Lukaku’s powerful run.
In an entertaining and open game, Brazil hit the post when the match was goalless – Thiago Silva missing in front of a gaping net after Neymar’s corner – before substitute Renato Augusto gave Brazil hope with a headed goal after Philippe Coutinho’s delicious pass.
However, the South Americans became the latest heavyweight to depart the competition after holders Germany and other past winners Argentina, Spain and Uruguay.
Impressive Belgium will now face France, 2-0 winners over Uruguay earlier on Friday, in a semi-final in St Petersburg next Tuesday, 10 July (19:00 BST).
France are into the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 2006 after seeing off Uruguay with the help of a terrible error by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
In terms of excitement, this quarter-final tie did not come close to Les Bleus’ win over Argentina in the last 16 but will still be remembered for the contrasting fates of the two goalkeepers, with Hugo Lloris producing a contender for save of the tournament while his opposite number made a mistake that was even more memorable.
Raphael Varane headed France into a first-half lead from a free-kick that came straight off the training field, with Antoine Griezmann checking his run before delivering the perfect cross for the Real Madrid defender to glance home.
Uruguay, with injured striker Edinson Cavani failing to even make the bench, almost struck back immediately from a free-kick of their own, but Lloris produced a brilliant diving stop to deny Martin Caceres, before Diego Godin blasted the rebound over.
The second half started with France continuing to control possession, but they were gifted the goal that made certain of their victory.
There seemed little danger when Griezmann let fly from the edge of the area but Muslera misjudged the flight of the ball, flapped at the shot, and saw it loop slowly over the line.
Uruguay, roared on by their huge travelling support, threw bodies forward in the closing stages but could not seriously trouble Lloris again.
Their run of four successive victories is over, as well as their hopes of reaching the final in Moscow on 15 July.
It is France who march on, and they will face neighbours Belgium in the semi-finals in St Petersburg on Tuesday.
The other semi-final in Moscow on Wednesday 11 July will be contested between the winners of Saturday’s quarter-finals featuring Sweden and England (15:00 BST) and Russia and Croatia (19:00 BST).
Brazil succumb to European opposition again – the stats
Brazil have now been eliminated by European sides in each of the last four editions of the World Cup (France 2006, Netherlands 2010, Germany 2014 and Belgium 2018).
Belgium have reached the World Cup semi-finals for only the second time, losing out to eventual winners Argentina in 1986.
This was the first time in 30 matches in all competitions that Brazil had conceded more than once in a game.
Belgium’s victory was only their second ever against Brazil, and first since a 1963 friendly match in Brussels.
Fernandinho became only the second player to score a World Cup own goal with Brazil, after Marcelo v Croatia in 2014.
Belgium have had nine different goalscorers at the 2018 World Cup (excluding own goals). Only Italy in 2006 and France in 1982 (10 each) have ever had more in a single tournament.
Renato Augusto scored just three minutes and 14 seconds after coming on as a sub. It was his first goal in 14 games for Brazil, since netting against Peru in November 2016.
Kevin De Bruyne became the 100th different player to score at the 2018 World Cup (excluding own goals).
Romelu Lukaku has been directly involved in 20 goals in his last 13 appearances for Belgium, scoring 17 and assisting three.