Belgium stuns Brazil with stunning first-half show

A Fernandinho own-goal and Kevin de Bruyne's strike have put Belgium ahead.

Kevin De Bruyne found the bottom corner to put Belgium two goals up against Brazil.   -  AP

Roberto Martinez, who had acknowledged the need for muscle in his midfield, made two changes, bringing in Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini – the goal scorers against Japan – as Kevin De Bruyne was pushed ahead to play on the right of a front three in a 3-4-3 system. His changes paid dividends as Belgium took its chances to open a two-goal lead at the end of the first half of its quarterfinals against Brazil.

The Latin Americans earned the first corner in seventh minute and Neymar’s delivery from the left went off Thiago Silva’s thigh to bounce off the post, allowing Belgium to muster a quick counter which ended with Chadli’s shot sailing wide. Three minutes later, another Brazil corner – this time from the right – found the wrong man inside the box as Paulinho made a mess of his shot, when left completely unmarked with only Thibaut Courtois to beat.

The South Americans soon went behind in the 13th minute as Eden Hazard’s corner was deflected past a diving Alisson, touching the arm of Fernandinho, who under no pressure mistimed his jump. Belgium, living dangerously, trying to play from the back, almost immediately surrendered the lead as Neymar dribbled his way to the byline, flicking a ball to Gabriel Jesus, who failed to find enough purchase on his shot.

De Bruyne went of a wonderful run in the 23 minute, bursting down the left to cut inside and pass the ball to Romelu Lukaku, who nutmeged Miranda, but Thiago Silva was there to tidy things up. It was an end-to-end battle as both sides pressed on the accelerator, caring very little about their defensive shape. 

Belgium, which found its winner through a classic counterattack against Japan, again

benefitted from a darting Lukaku run – purposeful and committed – down the middle, with De Bruyne finishing off the move with a sweet right-footed volley from the edge of the box that nestled on the left corner of Alisson’s net.

Philippe Coutinho, scorer of many fancy goals, tried to curve one to the top right corner but Courtois was agile enough to parry his effort away in the 37th minute.   

Belgium was relentless and Brazil survived a few more scares as De Bruyne looked to add to its tally with a swerving free-kick, forcing Alisson to make a smart save. Neymar’s solo run towards the end of the first half bore no fruit as the Brazilian’s plea for a penalty fell in deaf ears with the referee calling Thomas Meunier’s challenge as legitimate.

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