An early own goal and a blast by Kevin De Bruyne were enough for Belgium to defeat Brazil 2-1 in their World Cup quarterfinal in Kazan, Russia, sending the Red Devils to their first semifinal since 1986. Renato Augusto pulled one back for Brazil, which pushed late, but Thibaut Courtois’s save on Neymar in stoppage time secured the famous result and eliminated the Seleção.
Belgium will move on to play France in the semifinals on Tuesday, July 10.
De Bruyne fired the first warning shot of the match in the second minute, winning the ball off his club teammate, Fernandinho, before lacing a low shot from 25 yards, only to drag it wide left of Alisson’s post.
Both teams came close in the eighth minute off an end-to-end sequence. Marcelo earned a corner kick for Brazil, and off the set piece Miranda flicked a header on for fellow center back Thiago Silva. His looping chance came off the knee and nearly went in, only for it to ding off the post. Courtois recovered, and much like he did against Japan on the game-winning sequence, he sparked a lightning-fast counter. After a blocked shot, Nacer Chadli had a clear chance from long range, but he hooked it wide of the post.
Belgium wound up striking first, and it came on an own goal. Off a corner kick, Fernandinho, a replacement for the suspended Casemiro, inadvertently flicked on a header into his own net, gifting the Red Devils a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. The tally continued a trend at this World Cup, with it being the 11th own goal scored in Russia.
Belgium doubled its lead 18 minutes later on another corner–though this one taken by Brazil. Off the clearance, Belgium broke the other way, with Romelu Lukaku receiving the ball, turning and bursting upfield. He found De Bruyne to his right, and the Manchester City star laced a rocket by Alisson to make it 2-0 in the 31st minute.
Feeling the desperation, Brazil sprung to action and nearly scored in the 37th minute through Coutinho. Like he did against Switzerland, he curled in a rocket from long range, but this time the goalkeeper made the stop, with Courtois diving to his left to come up with the save.
De Bruyne forced Alisson into a save on the other end in the 41st minute off a free kick. It didn’t trouble the netminder all that much, but De Bruyne’s curling inswinger forced the Brazilian to tip it over the bar. Off the ensuing corner kick, Vincent Kompany’s creative flick forced another save by the near post, one that Alisson made to keep it 2-0.
Roberto Firmino came off the bench at halftime for Brazil, replacing Willian, and he nearly made an instant impact. Marcelo did well to create space for a cross while being defender by Thomas Meunier, and Firmino got the slightest of touches on it by the near post, unable to steer it on goal in the 51st minute.
Brazil continued to push, and Neymar thought he’d won a penalty in the 53rd minute when he appeared to be taken down by Marouane Fellaini in the box. Replays show that Neymar initiated the slight contact by kicking out his trailing leg, and referee Milorad Mazic was on it from the start, not coming close to whistling for the PK. Neymar’s fortunate that he wasn’t booked for simulation, especially considering he’s carrying a yellow card into the match.
Brazil wanted another penalty on the following sequence. Gabriel Jesus nutmegged Jan Vertonghen at the end line and then appeared to be taken down by Kompany while the ball was still in play by the near post. VAR reviewed the play, but Mazic did not take a look, with play continuing without a reversal of the ruling.
Belgium nearly made it 3-0 off another nearly lethal counterattack in the 61st minute. It was Eden Hazard that carried forward down the left-hand side, and had he slipped a cross to the far post for a streaking, open Lukaku, it likely would’ve resulted in a goal. Instead, he opted to shoot across goal, missing the far post and pushing it wide.
Brazil continued to claw back into the game and had its best chance in the 75th minute, with Douglas Costa, in off the bench for Gabriel Jesus, forcing a save from Courtois, only for Neymar to have his follow-up chance blocked.
The Seleção finally were able to pull one back a minute later. Coutinho’s lofted ball was headed home by another substitute, Augusto, who made it 2-1 and allowed Brazil to dream of a come-from-behind result.
Augusto probably should have made it 2-2 in the 81st minute, when he was gifted with a wide-open look from the top of the 18-yard box, but he hooked his chance wide left. Two minutes later, a streaking Neymar fed Coutinho in the box, but he completely mishit his chance, opening up and putting it wide and high of the frame.
Brazil pushed and pushed and again thought it had done enough for an equalizer only to be denied three minutes into stoppage time. It was Neymar who had the chance, curling a 20-yard blast on frame, but an acrobatic Courtois denied him with a sensational stop to tip it out and ultimately preserve the win.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Alisson (Roma), Ederson (Man City), Cassio (Corinthians)
Defenders: Danilo (Man City), Fagner (Corinthians), Thiago Silva (PSG), Miranda (Inter), Marquinhos (PSG), Pedro Geromel (Gremio), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Casemiro (Real Madrid), Paulinho (Barcelona), Fernandinho (Man City), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Fred (Shakhtar), Willian (Chelsea)
Forwards: Neymar (PSG), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Man City), Douglas Costa (Juventus), Taison (Shakhtar)
Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona)
Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Nacer Chadli (West Brom), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)
Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Borussia Dortmund), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli)
Manager: Roberto Martinez