Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Belgium burst Brazil bubbles into World Cup semis

Belgium celebrate against Japan Belgium celebrate against Japan
Ivan Hill | 07 July, 2018, 05:44

Martinez accepted that Belgium would be underdogs against the five-times world champions at Kazan Arena on Friday when they battle it out for a place in the semi-finals.

It's the latest surprise in a tournament full of upsets, which has included Spain's shocking loss to Russian Federation in the knockout rounds and, even more surprisingly, Germany crashing out of the group stage. Or maybe this is year that England finally, finally, wins another major global tournament. Brazil tried hard in the remaining time to extend the match to extra-time but Belgium defence saw them off. And then there's this.

Thiago Silva put a sitter against the woodwork and Paulinho scuffed a good chance from another corner within 10 minutes, while Gabriel Jesus was unable to turn in an equaliser from three yards out just moments after Belgium had taken the lead.

Meanwhile, Japan thought they had the game locked away with a 2-0 lead in the second half, but then Belgium stormed back to go up 3-2 in the fourth minute of stoppage time to win the game; it's the first time in almost 50 years that a team has overcome a 2-0 deficit to win a game.

As mentioned before, 2006 by France, 2010 by the Netherlands and in 2014, the infamous 7-1 loss to Germany in the semi-finals!

The two other spots will be decided in Sunday's quarterfinals which feature Russian Federation vs. Croatia and England vs. Sweden.

In the end the day was Belgium's - another victory for the country's much-touted "golden generation", another display of reckless but hugely entertaining football from Roberto Martinez's side.

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Nonetheless, the Belgian trio of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku pose a greater threat than the Brazilian duo of Coutinho and Neymar. The pain of Belgium's defeat by the same opponents in the Round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup enhances the joy of reaching the semi-finals in Russian Federation that little bit further.

Belgium is now on a 24-match unbeaten streak. I played and scored in that match and Belgium were a tricky opponent.

For Belgium, meanwhile, Roberto Martinez has made a few changes of his own. It was also the first time his side had allowed two goals in a game after conceding only six in their previous 25 matches.

Belgium rallied from two goals down to beat Japan 3-2 in the round of 16.

Brazil came back again and finally replied when Augusto guided home a header from Coutinho's expertly-floated cross.

Belgium, meanwhile, have the best attack in Russian Federation, having found the back of the net 15 times already.

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