Final, 1-0 Argentina: It’s all over in Brasilia. Argentina narrowly defeats Belgium and advances to the World Cup semifinal for the first time since 1990.
Argentina defeated the spirited Belgians by scoring early, defending late and managing the middle. Higuain’s early volley — a truly special moment — provided the difference in scoreline, as Argentina managed the game and held off Belgium until the final whistle.
But it wasn’t a perfect victory for Argentina. Belgium launched a furious comeback effort around the half-hour mark, and Argentina invited destruction by defending so deep in its own half. However, Argentina’s downfall never came because Demichelis and Garay were sentries in the center of defense.
The defeat ends Belgium’s 2014 World Cup journey. Many picked the Red Devils to go far in this tournament, but they ultimately progressed as far as we expected them to go. Belgium has a number of good players and a few stars, but most of its talented corps is young — under 25 — and World Cup knockout games are so often won by experienced players in the prime of their careers, not budding stars.
Meanwhile, Argentina will rue the loss of di Maria, who left the game in the first half with a thigh injury. Argentina hasn’t announced the severity of di Maria’s injury, but it could rule him out of the rest of the 2014 World Cup. If that is the case, Argentina will be without Messi’s chief attacking lieutenant in the games that matter most.
Argentina will face either Costa Rica or the Netherlands in the semifinal on Wednesday. The 2014 World Cup final is on July 13.
That’s all for now and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.
90th minute +5, 1-0 Argentina: Witsel misses with a half-volley. Belgium may not have another chance to score.
90th minute +4, 1-0 Argentina: Messi has a breakaway and is in alone on Courtois, but the Belgium goalkeeper races off his line and makes the save.
90th minute, 1-0 Argentina: There will be a minimum of five minutes of stoppage time in the second half.
89th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Belgium is playing direct to Lukaku and Fellaini, who has pushed forward into a center-forward position.
The tactical and strategic shift is helping Belgium create many dangerous moments, but Argentina is keeping the Red Devils off the board with desperate defending.
85th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Belgium comes close once again, as de Bruyne’s shot is deflected and narrowly misses Romero’s goal.
81st minute, 1-0 Argentina: Fernando Gago comes on for Higuain, who departs to a standing ovation.
75th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Nacer Chadli is replacing Hazard in Belgium’s final substitution.
Hazard failed to influence the game in his 75 minutes of action, but it’s still surprising to see him hustle to bench at this pivotal moment.
75th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Biglia is cautioned for a professional foul on Vertonghen.
74th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Belgium has Argentina pinned back in its own third minute.
The Belgians are creating turnovers in Argentina’s half and quickly pushing numbers forward, which has its opponent on the back foot.
71st minute, 1-0 Argentina: Lavezzi exits the game, and Rodrigo Palacio takes his place, as Argentina makes its second substitution.
68th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Alderweireld is cautioned for a tackle on Biglia.
The Belgium fullback will be suspended for the semifinal if his team advances.
65th minute, 1-0 Argentina: De Bruyne’s low cross is deflected into Romero’s arms.
Belgium has shown great speed, energy and incisiveness on the counter-attack in the last five minutes.
61st minute, 1-0 Argentina: Fellaini heads Vertonghen’s cross over the crossbar in Belgium’s best scoring chance so far.
59th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Belgium is making a double substitution.
Romelu Lukaku replaces Origi and Dries Mertens replaces Mirallas.
These are personnel changes, and Belgium is unlikely to change its formation at this point. The Red Devils’ substitutions have made tremendous impacts at the 2014 World Cup.
55th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Higuain surges forward with a 40-yard dribble and nutmegs Kompany before rocketing his shot off the crossbar.
Argentina is enjoying more possession and creating better scoring chances early in the second half.
53rd minute, 1-0 Argentina: Hazard is cautioned for a dangerous challenge on Biglia.
It’s the Belgian star’s first significant contribution of the game.
50th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Higuain dribbles into the Belgium penalty area and shoots, but his effort deflects off of van Buyten and goes out for a corner kick.
46th minute, 1-0 Argentina: The second half is underway.
Halftime, 1-0 Argentina: That’s the end of the first half. Argentina leads at the break.
A game between two of the 2014 World Cup’s most powerful and dynamic attacks is living up to the hype. Argentina took the lead after Higuain followed his goal-scorer’s instinct, which told him to turn and hit it into the bottom corner (like it’s that easy to do).
Argentina is showing confidence and composure when in possession. When Belgium has the ball, the Argentines are focused and committed.
The loss of di Maria is a major blow, but Argentina should be able to absorb it and see out the game — especially now that it has the lead.
Belgium must sustain possession in Argentina’s half and attack in greater numbers in the second half. The Red Devils had their fair share of the ball, but Argentina prevented them from creating clear scoring opportunities.
45th minute, 1-0 Argentina: There will be two minutes of added time in the first half.
39th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Messi goes on a dangerous-dribble in which he holds off three or four fouls before going down at the top of Belgium’s penalty area.
The Argentina superstar missed with the ensuing free kick but not by much.
33rd minute, 1-0 Argentina: Di Maria now appears to be injured and unable to play on.
Enzo Perez replaces di Maria.
29th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Di Maria is down in the Belgium half after appearing to suffer a thigh injury while shooting.
Di Maria now is up and walking toward the sideline. He should be able to continue.
26th minute, 1-0 Argentina: De Bruyne shoots on goal from distance, but Romero makes a diving save with two hands.
23rd minute, 1-0 Argentina: Belgium continues to look to put Argentina under pressure, but the South Americans have dealt with it so far by keeping a compact defensive shape and pressing aggressively in their own half.
15th minute, 1-0 Argentina: Belgium has looked to respond to Higuain’s goal, but a quality final pass or shot has eluded the Red Devils when they reach Argentina’s third of the field.
Eighth minute, 1-0 Argentina: Gonzalo Higuain puts Argentina in front.
Di Maria’s pass deflected off Vertonghen and fell to Higuain, who was stationed at the top of Belgium’s penalty area. The Argentina striker spun and struck a stunning, powerful volley into the goal.
It’s Higuain’s first goal at the 2014 World Cup.
Fifth minute, 0-0: Argentina has had the better of the opening exchanges.
Di Maria has been the most lively. The Argentina playmaker has dribbled aggressively and shot on two occasions, but Belgium defenders blocked both of his efforts.
Second minute, 0-0: Witsel pushes Mascherano — perhaps Argentina’s toughest player — to the ground during a shoulder charge and glares at the Argentina midfielder.
The referee speaks to both players and the game continues.
Kickoff: The quarterfinal game between Argentina and Belgium is underway.
11:45 a.m.: Here are the lineups:
11:30 a.m. ET: The quarterfinals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup continue on Saturday when Argentina takes on Belgium at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil.
Two world soccer giants — one a rising power and the other a traditional titan — face off in a game that could be the most exciting and forward-thinking contest of the 2014 World Cup.
Argentina is one of the favorties to win the tournament, but it has yet to peak on Brazilian soil. Lionel Messi has carried his team through the group stage and Round of 16, scoring four goals in four games. Messi’s Argentinian teammates also must rise to the occasion against Belgium — their toughest foe yet.
Many have picked Belgium as a dark-horse contender to win the 2014 World Cup. The Red Devils won all three of their group-stage games before earning a hard-fought victory over the United States in the Round of 16.
Belgium captain Vincent Kompany will keep a watchful eye on Messi, and goalkeeper Thibault Courtois is there to bail his teammates out of danger. But the game is won and lost with goals, so the onus is on the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne to continue powering Belgium on its 2014 World Cup journey.
The game kicks off at noon. Stay right here for all the action from the Estadio Nacional.