Final, 2-1 Belgium: The referee blows the final whistle. Belgium advance to the 2018 World Cup semifinals. Brazil exits earlier than most expected.
Friday is perhaps the most glorious day in Belgian soccer history, as the Red Devils outlast Brazil to move on to the World Cup 2018 semifinals. Kevin de Bruyne’s stunning 31st-minute goal won the game, but Belgium delivered a complete performance to earn the upset win. Variety has become the spice of the Red Devils’ lives in Russia.
Despite having more possession and attempts on goal than Belgium, Brazil never controlled the game. Fernandinho’s 13th-minute own goal put Brazil on the back foot, and De Bruyne’s subsequent rocket turned Brazil’s task into mission impossible. Brazil might have come back on another day, but Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois showed why he’s one of the world’s most respected, and highest-paid, goalkeepers by delivering a shining performance. Only Renato Augusto’s header from point-blank range beat Courtois.
Belgium is celebrating but soon must begin preparing for its second World Cup semifinal game.
Brazil now must determine how to restore its national team to the lofty standards its forebearers set. Preventing disastrously slow starts in big games and overcoming European foes are just two areas that require improvement.
Man of the Match: The phrase “world-class” often is used too loosely in describing players, but de Bruyne showed he’s the real deal with his goal and overall performance.
Next up: Brazil prepares to leave Russia in disappointment. Belgium will play France at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday in the 2018 World Cup semifinals.
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 coming up on NESN.com/soccer.
90th minute +4, 2-1 Belgium: Thibaut Courtois saves Neymar’s long-range shot over the crossbar. It’s a fantastic save by the Belgium goalkeeper.
90th minute +1, 2-1 Belgium: Thomas Meunier appears to push Neymar as he rises to head a cross. Neymar falls and appeals for a penalty kick. The VAR team tells the referee “no penalty.”
90th minute, 2-1 Belgium: There will be a minimum of five minutes of stoppage time in the second half.
90th minute, 2-1 Belgium: The referee shows Brazil’s Fagner a yellow card.
87th minute, 2-1 Belgium: Romelu Lukaku exits, and Youri Tielemans enters in Belgium’s second substitution.
84th minute, 2-1 Belgium: Philippe Coutinho scuffs his shot after Neymar sets him up perfectly for a potential game-tying goal.
Coutinho perhaps has been Brazil’s best player at World Cup 2018 but he’ll likely rue this miss for years to come.
82nd minute, 2-1 Belgium: Thomas Vermaelen replaces Nacer Chadli in Belgium’s first substitution. Vermaelen might bolster the Red Devils’ defense when they need it most, but head coach Roberto Martinez is sacrificing an attacking outlet with this move.
81st minute, 2-1 Belgium: Renato Augusto has space just outside of Belgium’s penalty area, but the Brazil midfielder shoots agonizingly wide of the goal.
78th minute, 2-1 Belgium: Roberto Firmino control’s Neymar’s pass with a nice touch, turns and shoots just over the Belgium goal.
76th minute, 2-1 Belgium: Renato Augusto darts forward, rises to meet Philippe Coutinho’s perfect delivery and scores, cutting Brazil’s deficit in half.
73rd minute, 2-0 Belgium: Renato Augusto replaces Paulinho in Brazil’s second substitution.
71st minute, 2-0 Belgium: The referee shows Thomas Meunier a yellow card for ending Brazil’s counter-attack with a heavy challenge on Neymar.
Meunier, Belgium’s right fullback, will miss the World Cup semifinal if Belgium keeps Brazil at bay.
67th minute, 2-0 Belgium: Brazil is running out of time and attacking ideas.
62nd minute, 2-0 Belgium: Douglas Costa dribbles into Belgium’s penalty area and shoots (or crosses) on goal, but goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois dives low and parries away from Paulinho’s follow-up run.
62nd minute, 2-0 Belgium: The Red Devils counter-attack through Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard, who shoots wide instead of passing to the unmarked Romelu Lukaku.
61st minute, 2-0 Belgium: Brazil now is matching Belgium’s earlier rough play. The game might spiral out of control if the referee doesn’t clamp down on proceedings.
58th minute, 2-0 Belgium: Douglas Costa replaces Gabriel Jesus in Brazil’s second personnel change.
57th minute, 2-0 Belgium: The referee declines to award Brazil a penalty kick. History will remember this decision and the previous one involving Neymar as controversial.
56th minute, 2-0 Belgium: Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus destroys Belgium’s Jan Vertonghen with a nutmeg. Vincent Kompany hacks down Jesus, and the referee is reviewing the incident on VAR.
53rd minute, 2-0 Belgium: Neymar appeals for a Brazil penalty kick, but the referee declines his plea.
51st minute 2-0 Belgium: Roberto Firmino misses Marcelo’s cross by an inch or so, as Brazil seeks to halve Belgium’s lead.
47th minute, 2-0 Belgium: The referee shows Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld a yellow card for his tactical foul on Brazil’s Paulinho.
46th minute, 2-0 Belgium: The second half is underway.
Brazil makes a substitution at halftime, replacing Willian with Roberto Firmino.
Is Brazil coach Tite acknowledging he made a mistake with his starting lineup? Gabriel Jesus, who nominally started ahead of Firmino, remains on the field.
Halftime, 2-0 Belgium: That’s the end of the first half. The Red Devils lead by two.
The game arguably is going better than Belgium deserves or could have imagined, but the Europeans won’t complain. Fernandinho accidentally put Belgium in front, but Kevin de Bruyne demonstrated his world-class skills with his perfect strike.
Meanwhile, Brazil is struggling to breach Belgium’s defense due to the Red Devils’ focus and Thibaut Courtois’ fine goalkeeping.
Brazil now faces a historic challenge.
Is this Brazil team up for the task?
45th minute, 2-0 Belgium: There will be two minutes of added time in the first half.
42nd minute, 2-0 Belgium: Belgium center back Vincent Kompany redirects Nacer Chadli’s corner kick on goal, but it kindly rolls to Brazil’s well-positioned goalkeeper Alisson.
41st minute, 2-0 Belgium: Kevin de Bruyne forcefully shoots a free kick on goal, but Alisson parries it over the goal.
37th minute, 2-0 Belgium: Thibaut Courtois maintain’s Belgium’s advantage with successive saves.
31st minute, 2-0 Belgium: Kevin de Bruyne doubles Belgium’s pleasure with a laser strike into Brazil’s goal.
The Red Devils strike again on the counter-attack, with Romelu Lukaku covering most of the yardage and playing the key pass to de Bruyne.
Should we have seen this coming? Probably.
28th minute, 1-0 Belgium: Brazil’s Neymar and Willian both need brief medical attention. They then return to their feet, and the game continues.
26th minute, 1-0 Belgium: Marcelo fires on goal from distance, but Thibaut Courtois bats away the shot.
24th minute, 1-0 Belgium: Brazil trails for the first time at World Cup 2018, but its tournament history suggests the result could go either way.
20th minute, 1-0 Belgium: Philippe Coutinho shoots from distance, but his effort sails straight into Thibaut Courtois’ arms.
14th minute, 1-0 Belgium: Brazil seeks an instant reply. Willian fires a cross into Belgium’s penalty area, but goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois punches his delivery clear.
13th minute, 1-0 Belgium: Brazil’s Fernandinho scores an own goal.
Belgium’s Nacer Chadli powerfully curls a corner kick to the near post, where Fernandinho can’t head it clear. Instead, it deflects off the veteran midfielder’s arm into the goal.
Brazil defender Miranda has stern words for Fernandinho, who joins unwanted company.
10th minute, 0-0: There’s another scramble inside Belgium’s penalty area, but Brazil’s Paulinho can’t find enough space to shoot on goal before the Red Devils eliminate the threat.
Eighth minute, 0-0: Belgium’s Nacer Chadli responds at the other end, curling a shot just wide of Brazil’s near post.
Eighth minute, 0-0: Miranda heads a free kick inside Belgium’s goalmouth. Thiago Silva arrives first but can’t redirect Miranda’s glancing header into the goal. It hits the post, instead, and Belgium clears.
Sixth minute, 0-0: Belgium has committed a few early fouls in an apparent effort to physically impose itself on Brazil.
Second minute, 0-0: Belgium’s Kevin de Bruyne rolls a shot wide. His effort probably wasn’t going to trouble Brazil goalkeeper Alisson, anyway.
Kickoff: The Brazil vs. Belgium World Cup 2018 quarterfinal is underway.
Pregame: The teams are coming out for the national anthems. Kickoff will take place in just a few minutes.
Here’s Brazil’s entire anthem.
Marcelo returns to Brazil’s lineup after missing the Round of 16 game due to a back injury he reportedly suffered … while sleeping on a mattress that didn’t fit his needs. That’s not a joke.
Fernandinho replaces the suspended Casemiro at the base of Brazil’s midfield. They’re different types of players, but do the job of protecting and destroying similarly.
1:30 p.m. ET: Here are the starting lineups:
1 p.m. ET: Strap yourselves in for the best world soccer has to offer.
That’s the expectation Brazil and Belgium face Friday, as they meet in Kazan, Russia, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals. Both are among the favorites to win the competition, but only one will remain standing a few hours from now. Will it be the rising European power or the giant of South American soccer?
Brazil lost its last two quarterfinal matchups against European teams, falling to France in 2006 and the Netherlands in 2010. However, Brazil did beat Belgium in the 2002 World Cup Round of 16 en route to its fifth, and most recent, world championship.
Belgium has struggled against South American teams in the World Cup knockout rounds, exiting the 1986 and 2014 tournaments after quarterfinal losses to Argentina and the 2002 tournament following its loss to Brazil. Will recent history repeat itself or will it give way in Russia?
The Brazil-Belgium winner will face France — which beat Uruguay 2-0 in the quarterfinals — on Tuesday in the 2018 World Cup semifinals.
Brazil vs. Belgium will kick off at 2 p.m. ET. Join us right here for all the action from Kazan.
Thumbnail photo via USA TODAY Sports Images