Brazil blunder a horror balls-up
THE World Cup shocks keep coming as Belgium defeated Brazil 2-1 on Saturday morning (AEST) to advance to the semi-finals in Russia.
Two first half goals to the Belgians gave them enough of a buffer to progress as they withstood a furious Brazilian barrage in the second stanza to prove themselves as genuine title contenders.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was full of praise for his troops, who overcame the South American giant for the first time since 1963.
"They were incredible, incredible heart out there," Martinez said. "Sometimes you have to accept that Brazil has got this finesse, that quality that they're going to break you down. They didn't accept it.
"They didn't think, for one minute that they were going to give up. And this is something special.
"These boys deserve to be real special people back in Belgium. I hope that everyone in Belgium is very, very proud."
Brazil started the stronger of the two sides in the second half and enjoyed plenty of possession as it pushed for its first goal of the match.
Neymar had a penalty shout denied after an obvious dive but soon after the VAR was called upon to see if Belgian central defender Vincent Kompany had brought down Gabriel Jesus inside the area. Jesus went down and writhed on the ground in agony, but no foul was called.
As has been the case all game, Belgium was relying on counter-attacks for scoring opportunities. Another break saw Eden Hazard end up with the ball with time and space out wide but his shot screamed past the far post.
Thibaut Courtois made yet another brilliant save with half an hour left to play when Douglas Costa tested him at his near post and the exact same scene played out 10 minutes later.
Brazil kept turning the screws and its dominance was finally rewarded when Renato Augusto headed home an inch-perfect cross to make it 2-1 with 15 minutes remaining.
Coutinho had a golden chance to level things up with less than 10 minutes to go when Neymar squared a pass to him inside the box. Coutinho opened his body up but his side-footed effort flew wide and high.
In the 90th minute Neymar once again cried foul over a tumble in the box but the referee waved him away. The superstar had another chance to square the ledger but once again it was Courtois to the rescue.
The shot-stopper leapt up with an outstretched right hand to tip Neymar's curling effort over the bar with his fingertips in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
That was the final chance for Brazil as Belgium celebrated its stunning 2-1 upset.
Brazil's horror blunder
Thiago Silva came within a whisker of opening the scoring in the seventh minute when a teammate's glancing header from a corner deflected onto his thigh and rebounded onto the post before being cleaned up by Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Much like it did to score the winner against Japan in the Round of 16, Belgium launched a counter-attack and had its own chance to score but the Brazilian defence held firm.
But Belgium drew first blood courtesy of a horror blunder from Brazil. Fernandinho tried to clear a corner but he only succeeded in turning the ball back towards goal and past his keeper to give the Belgians a 1-0 lead after 14 minutes.
The South Americans found their groove and had several attempts on goal, only for some desperate Belgian defenders to get in the way of their shots. But despite its resurgence, Brazil found itself in crisis mode after half an hour when Kevin de Bruyne made it 2-0.
Romelu Lukaku received the ball in his own half and charged upfield on a fast break before passing wide to his right to an unmarked de Bruyne. The winger then lasered a shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.
"What is going on here? Brazil in deep, deep trouble now," the commentator said.
Courtois came to the rescue minutes later, making a stunning save as he dived to stop Coutinho's curling effort from long range.
Neymar bore down on goal late in the half but was ruled offside, and it remained 2-0 at the break.