BERNAT LÓPEZ / ©XTREM FOOTBALL
It didn’t finish 7-1 but for long stretches it bore many of the hallmarks. Brazil were again knocked out of the World Cup. Brazil were again exploited on the counter-attack after losing an early goal. Brazil were again taken apart by the more clinical side.
Just as they had been feasted upon in Belo Horizonte by a devastating Germany four years ago, so the Seleçao were pulled this way and that by a brilliant first half Belgium performance as Roberto Martinez’s side won 2-1 in Friday’s quarter-final at the Kazan Arena.
Belgium head to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 32 years having been magnificently set up by Martinez. Their victory in Kazan was their fifth in five attempts at this tournament but was by some distance their most complete display until a nerve-shredding final 15 minutes during which they were left hanging on for dear life.
The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku starred for Belgium. Though Hazard grabbed most of the attention after his heroic outing. He attempted 10 take-ons,and, guess what, he completed all 10. Unreal. What’s more, it’s the most dribbles attempted by a player with a 100% success rate in a World Cup fixture since 1966 per OptaJoe.
“His decision-making lacked at times with the stakes so high but his sheer presence and talent continually had Brazil worried”Hazard
His decision-making lacked at times with the stakes so high but his sheer presence and talent continually had Brazil worried. Despite some erroneous passes, still one of Belgium’s shining lights on famous night.
De Bruyne did. Lukaku did. Hazard did. And Belgium did. They go to the semi-finals having caused one of the upsets of a World Cup full of them. They go to the semi-finals as the Golden Generation who could yet live up to their nickname. And, most importantly, they go to the semi-finals with De Bruyne, Lukaku and Hazard hitting form.