Belgium booked a World Cup semi-final against France as Brazil’s hopes of winning a sixth title were ended by a 2-1 defeat in Kazan.
An own goal from Fernandinho and a sensational strike from Kevin De Bruyne were enough to send the Red Devils to their second-ever World Cup semi-final and send the five-time winners crashing out.
Substitute Renato Augusto grabbed one back late on but it was to no avail as Neymar and his side were sent packing in Kazan.
Brazil, ranked second in the world by FIFA, were the last remaining non-European team in the tournament after Les Bleus knocked out Uruguay in yesterday’s first quarter-final match.
But Tite’s men, who badly missed the suspended Casemiro, were soundly beaten by third-ranked Belgium thanks to a pair of goals before the break at the Kazan Arena, despite the Selecao mounting a second-half fightback.
Fernandinho turned a corner into his own net to put Belgium in front, with a superb counter-attack extending their advantage.
Romelu Lukaku’s skill and strength carried the Red Devils deep into Brazil territory and Kevin De Bruyne lashed home a brilliant 20-yard rocket from the striker’s pass.
Brazil could find no answer until a 76th-minute headed reply from Renato Augusto, with star man Neymar virtually anonymous other than three poor attempts to win a penalty, although Referee Milorad Mazic perhaps should have pointed to the spot when Vincent Kompany dived in on Gabriel Jesus.
Two years after losing the European championships final on home soil, France is now just two wins from claiming an even bigger prize. And while Friday’s 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Uruguay didn’t have the flair or flash or glittering goals of their fightback against Argentina one round earlier, the French will not complain. After all, a World Cup semifinal awaits Didier Deschamps’ side should have a major trophy in their collection already, but were beaten by a pragmatic Portugal team in the final of Euro 2016 in Paris.
And the worry for their fans was that something similar could happen here against a streetwise Uruguay outfit.
France’s flair in the fantastic 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16 was missing in this quarter-final match, although that was always likely to be the case.
Uruguay are masters at defending deep and squeezing spaces against superior sides. Their gameplan is not new, but it remains as effective as ever.
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