Belgium Shocks Brazil, Advances to WC Semis

Manila Bulletin, July 7, 2018 | Go to article overview

Belgium Shocks Brazil, Advances to WC Semis


KAZAN, Russia -- Neymar used Brazil's famed yellow jersey to shield his anguish. The Belgians, clad in red and dancing in a celebratory circle nearby, couldn't hide their relief.

Belgium reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 32 years, holding off five-time champion Brazil 2-1 Friday in one of the country's greatest soccer feats.

"We've achieved something that is really beautiful," said Kevin De Bruyne, who scored Belgium's second goal, "and it's not easy."

Belgium eliminated Brazil by successfully fusing the attacking potency of De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku with the creativity of Eden Hazard and the goalkeeping exploits of Thibaut Courtois. Plus an own-goal from Brazil.

It all adds up to a semifinal match against France on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.

"Just treasure it and pass it down in the generations," Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said, still seemingly in awe of what his team achieved at the Kazan Arena.

Belgium took the lead after a slice of good fortune involving a pair of Manchester City teammates who were on opposing sides. Brazil midfielder Fernandinho's trailing right arm inadvertently helped Belgium captain Vincent Kompany's header land in his own net in the 13th minute.

De Bruyne then completed a counterattack launched by Lukaku to double the lead in the 31st minute.

As Belgium lost cohesiveness in the second half and Brazil's changes stirred the team, substitute Renato Augusto reduced the deficit in the 76th with a header. But it was too late for Brazil to muster an equalizer as Courtois thwarted several efforts to force the game into extra time.

While Belgium's golden generation is finally flourishing, Neymar is leading Brazil home after failing to live up to the expectations that come with being soccer's most expensive player. Crouching on the field, he pulled his shirt over his face while Belgium exalted in victory.

Humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semifinals fours year ago on home soil with Neymar out injured, Brazil didn't even get that far this time. …

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