Belgium's so-called golden generation ended Brazil's "Mission Hexa" in a thrilling 2018 Fifa World Cup quarter-final at a jam-packed Kazan Arena in Russia Friday.
Fernandinho's own goal and a stunner from Kevin de Bruyne gave the Red Devils a 2-0 lead and substitute Renato Augusto's goal eventually proved to be nothing but a consolation strike from the Selecao.
This is the fourth time in succession that Brazil were knocked out by European opposition.
In contrast, the Belgians extended their unbeaten run to 24 matches, and thus set up an all-European semi-final against France, who beat Uruguay earlier Friday.
It was a tale of two halves. Belgium were desperate to get early goals and got rewarded, taking a 2-0 lead heading into the first-half interval. In the second half, Brazil did almost everything right, scripting one attack after another. They reduced the arrears through Renato but it proved to be too little, too late in the end.
The south Americans understood the necessity of the scoreline as they brought in Roberto Firmino in place of Willian in the second half. Liverpool striker Firmino made an instant impact but his shot from a Marcelo pass was blocked by an alert Thibaut Courtois.
In the 53rd minute, Neymar got a ball well inside the box and his subsequent dive was well spotted by Serbian referee Milorad Mazic. However, to everyone's surprise, Mazic did not caution Neymar for simulation.
Brazil went all-out for the equalising goal and created numerous chances. With that said, it was Belgium who almost bagged their third goal against the run of play. De Bruyne found Eden Hazard on the left but the Chelsea lad missed the far post by a whisker from a tight angle in the 62nd minute.
Renato gave Brazil a lifeline in the 79th minute when he found the back of the net with a header from a perfect Philippe Coutinho cross. Renato came in from the bench in place of Paulinho moments before grabbing his goal.
Minutes later, Brazil could have bagged the equaliser but both Firmino and goalscorer Renato fluffed their lines. Firmino's kick went over the bar while Renato missed the post.
Brazil kept pressing Belgium as Coutinho received a lovely ball from Neymar inside the left side of the box but the Barcelona footballer failed to shoot on target.
Earlier, Brazil started with their regular 4-4-2 formation as they brought back Marcelo in place of Filipe Luis and Fernandinho to replace the suspended Casemiro.
Wow! Congrats to Belgium 🇧🇪 on an incredible win! ⚽️ https://t.co/DbCgCI4K7T— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) July 6, 2018
On the other hand, the Red Devils had attacking football in the back of their minds, pushing De Bruyne upfront and naming Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli in the starting XI.
The game started in vibrant mood with both the teams attacking and counter-attacking endlessly. The Belgians stitched together short passes and it was Brazil who resorted to long balls as the latter’s first clear cut chance came in the eighth minute of the tie.
Neymar sent a curving corner that found Thiago Silva. But the PSG man failed to react instantly as his touch hit the post from close distance.
A couple of minutes later, Gabriel Jesus exhibited some skills and passed dangerously to Paulinho but the Barcelona man’s shot from the right flank inside the box was blocked and went for a corner instead.
Paulinho got another opportunity moments later but his shot failed to find the target.
A few minutes later, Fellaini found himself free outside the box but his shot was deflected for a corner by Belgium.
A casual Brazil defence conceded the first goal in the 13th minute when Vincent Kompany failed to put a heavy touch on a corner. However, a flying Fernandinho put through his own net, giving goalkeeper Alisson no chance.
In the next five minutes, Jesus and Coutinho saw their attempts saved by goalkeeper Courtois.
In the 23rd minute, De Bruyne found Romelu Lukaku on the right and the Manchester United striker unleashed a nutmeg though Miranda’s legs inside the box. However, it was cleared to safety without any harm done.
Three minutes later, Marcelo hit powerfully but it was well saved by Courtois.
Belgium then opted for high pressing football and it paid off in the 31st minute. From a counter-attack, Lukaku received the ball from a Fellaini clearance in their own half. Lukaku managed to cover long areas of the pitch and evade a couple of markers before releasing De Bruyne on the right side of the box. The Manchester City man pulled the trigger and scored one of his trademark stunners that left Alisson stunned.
Courtois had a wonderful first half, saving a Coutinho shot from outside the box in the 37th minute.
Five minutes later, Kompany cleverly flicked a corner but an aware Alisson gathered the ball safely.
Just before the final whistle, Neymar went down in the penalty area but the referee asked the PSG sensation to continue playing, which eventually turned out to be a good decision.