Belgium beat Brazil 2-1 in Kazan to set the first semi-final of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ in stone, and booking their return to the final four for the first time in three decades.

A Seleção seized control of the match in the first half, seeing Thiago Silva’s effort hit the post, as the Red Devils rode their luck while relying on the counter-attack. The Belgians were ahead against the run of play after Fernandinho, replacing the suspended Casemiro, deviated a flicked-on corner into his own net.

There was nothing fortunate about the European side’s second. Reminiscent of their on-the-break winner against Japan, Kevin De Bruyne polished off a flawless attack move with a sumptuously struck finish.

The South Americans tried to pile the pressure on their opponents again after half-time but a combination of the excellent Thibaut Courtois and feverish defending proved too much to break down. As the spurned chances stacked up, it was left to substitute Renato Augusto to head home a Coutinho cross to hand Brazil hope.

Belgium refused to fold, however, in the enthralling closing stages, ensuring Roberto Martinez’s side reached the World Cup semi-finals for only the second time in their history.

Team reporter analysis
Giancarlo Giampietro, Brazil [Follow: Twitter | Facebook​]
While Belgium took the lead with a combination of fortune and their attacking skill, the Brazilians were calmer in possession after half-time, played their game and stifled the Belgians. Nevertheless, A Seleção were simply not clinical enough in front of goal to convert their chances – and were not helped by a superb performance from Courtois.

Simon Massart, Belgium [Follow: Twitter | Facebook]
It seemed written in the stars that Belgium would win. Everything simply fell into place as Courtois showed just how good a goalkeeper he is, while the Red Devils enjoyed crucial bits of luck in key moments. What’s more, nothing seemed to go Neymar’s way, as Brazil looked uncharacteristically uncertain in front of goal. 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 Russia that little bit further.

Budweiser Man of the Match
Kevin De Bruyne delivered the corner that led to the own goal and scored the second himself, yet the Belgium playmaker also impressed with his energy and defensive efforts. A fine all-round performance.

The stat
100 – Kevin De Bruyne today became the 100th player to score at this World Cup (excluding own goals). The record of 116 different goalscorers was set at Brazil 2014.

What’s next?
France v Belgium – Semi-final, 10 July, Saint Petersburg

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