World Cup 2018: Brilliant Belgium edges out Brazil

Brazil, the five-time champion, was outplayed and out-thought by the fleet-footed Belgium in their quarterfinal contest in Kazan.

Roberto Martinez...“These boys deserve to be heroes in Belgium.”   -  Getty Images

Neymar's Brazil crashed out of the World Cup on Friday, failing to erase the pain of its humiliation on home soil four years ago as Belgium beat it 2-1 to set up a semifinal against France. The five-time champion came to Russia desperate to make amends for its stunning 7-1 semifinal defeat on home soil to Germany in 2014.

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But it was outplayed and out-thought by the fleet-footed European side in Kazan, with Premier League stars Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard marauding forward at will in the first half before showing impressive resilience in the second.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said his side “deserve to be heroes” back home. The Red Devils tore Brazil apart on the counter-attack in the first half, before hanging on in the second to close out a famous victory.

“They did incredible. There were amazing hearts out there. I didn't think for one minute their hearts would give way,” said Martinez.

IN PICTURES: Brazil bows out of World Cup

“You have to accept that Brazil have so much quality and finesse, they break you down, but we did not accept it. Not for one minute were they (Belgium) going to give up. These boys deserve to be heroes in Belgium. The execution of the tactics was magnificent. It is special and we can't let the people of Belgium down. We can pass that down the generations — beating Brazil.”

Belgium will next face France in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday as it looks to reach the final for the first time in its history.

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The current team has been tagged the 'golden generation' in recent years, but had lost its last two major quarterfinals against Argentina four years ago and Wales at Euro 2016.

Martinez's men put that to bed in style in Kazan, though, matching Belgium's previous best World Cup run when it reached the last four in 1986. “I know it's not easy to play against Brazil,” midfielder Kevin De Bruyne told the BBC. “But we were magnificent first half and they changed tactics second half. We showed our character after they scored. We did very well with our running from deep, it is wonderful. We are here to try and win the World Cup and are very united.”

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