A brilliant all-round display from Belgium proved too much for Brazil as the five-time world champion bowed out of the 2018 Fifa World Cup after a 2-1 loss in the quarter-final in Kazan, Russia Friday. It was a tale of two halves as the Red Devils largely dominated the first half while the Selecao played brilliantly in the second half, coming close to grabbing the equaliser on several occasions. Here are five things we learned after the so-called golden Belgian generation qualified for the last four of the greatest show on earth for the first time in 32 years.
Belgium's golden generation are 2 games away from solidifying their place in history 🇧🇪 pic.twitter.com/SWodedjGQQ— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 6, 2018
Golden generation proving themselves
The Belgians advanced to the last four for only the second time in history and this time around their golden generation is in no mood to give the opposition any hope. In 1986, they were beaten by Diego Maradona’s brace as Argentina eventually went on to clinch the title. This generation is not a regular one, however. They are something special and have shown it over the last few matches in the Russia World Cup. They played attacking football against Brazil, taking a two-goal lead, and kept their composure right till the end. In the process, the Belgians extended their unbeaten run to 24 matches. This just goes to show how much depth and quality this Belgian squad possess.
🤞The 3 things that are certain in life:— SPORF (@Sporf) July 6, 2018
💥 ...Kevin De Bruyne Worldies. pic.twitter.com/s3UM3WRvNS
Martinez’s De Bruyne masterstroke
Roberto Martinez was largely criticised for playing one of his best players in the squad, Kevin de Bruyne, in defensive midfield. Martinez said he did it for the sake of Belgian football. The Manchester City playmaker was arguably the best player in the English Premier League last season. Thus, his chances of scoring was damaged although his influence in the games was still notable. But in the must-win quarter-final against Brazil, Martinez understood the importance of scoring early and sent his trumpcard De Bruyne up front to play alongside Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. The vacancy left by De Bruyne in defensive midfield was filled by Marouane Fellaini. Martinez’s decision paid off in some style. De Bruyne was involved in almost every Belgian attack and scored an all-important second goal with a stunner from outside the box. The player of the match displayed some wonderful build-up play and blocked the ball when needed.
That moment 😍! We are in the semi final of the World Cup!!! Let’s goooo🇧🇪🇧🇪🇧🇪🇧🇪🇧🇪 pic.twitter.com/oMCrItsv27— Thibaut Courtois (@thibautcourtois) July 6, 2018
Guts of Belgian defence, and Courtois
Though Belgium played some high-pressing, attacking football in the first half, Brazil did create several clear-cut chances but were unable to breach the Red Devils’ defence. As the half wore on, it was almost one-way traffic as Brazil were desperate to score goals, while Belgium were just content holding their guard. Brazil tried many times with crosses from the wings but the three-man defence of Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld cleared everything that came their way, thanks to their experience and height advantage. And when they failed or had no other option, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois came to their rescue, especially in the dying stages of the game. The Red Devils enjoyed the advantage of having a tall goalkeeper between the sticks.
South America’s World Cup is over pic.twitter.com/czwI1JJtD3— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 6, 2018
Fall of South America
Following the departure of Brazil, it was confirmed that the remaining teams in the World Cup would all be Europeans after France knocked out Uruguay in the first quarter-final earlier Friday. One of the title favourites, Argentina exited the tournament in the last 16 at the hands of 1998 world champion France. The last time a south American nation won the World Cup was Brazil in 2002 in South Korea and Japan.
After Ronaldo and Messi left the World Cup, Neymar finally had the stage to himself to actualise everything that he and his dad believe to be true about his greatness. All he did was fall over— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) July 6, 2018
Neymar needs time to become Selecao’s main man
From the start of the tournament, the focus was on Neymar. And it meant that Brazil’s fortunes largely depended on the PSG superstar’s performances. He was spoken of in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Argentina and Portugal’s talismans respectively. But it was Philippe Coutinho who was the star Brazilian player in the first two matches. Though Neymar showed some glimpses of returning to form in the following two games with goals and assists, he failed to rise to the occasion when he was needed the most in the quarter-final. Also, his continuous simulation in order to get benefits from the referee hurt the morale of the team at times. Whereas Messi and Ronaldo often have to carry the team on their own, Neymar has no such problems as the Brazil squad are filled with world-class stars. Neymar therefore, needs to show maturity and get himself more involved in the game.