Belgium ran out 2-1 winners against Brazil to end the Selecao’s World Cup at the quarterfinal stage on Friday night, sending Neymar’s side home from Russia and putting Roberto Martinez’s team into the semifinals.
A Fernandinho own goal and a brilliant Kevin De Bruyne strike gave Belgium a spot in the last four for the second time after 1986 and sees Brazil eliminated in the quarterfinals for the third time in the last four World Cups.
A furious opening 10 minutes saw Thiago Silva clatter a close-range strike off the post and Nacer Chadli blaze a fine shot just wide of goal for Belgium.
And it was Belgium that took an early lead in the 13th minute when Vincent Kompany redirected a Chadli corner kick on frame that bounced off Fernandinho’s arm and into the net for an own goal, the 11th so far at this World Cup.
De Bruyne then doubled Belgium’s lead just past the half-hour mark, firing a low, line drive into the side netting from a Romelu Lukaku assist after the Manchester United striker’s marauding run through midfield.
Brazil — down 2-0 and trailing for the first time in Russia — seemed to sense the urgency of the situation and poured forward. Thibaut Courtois palmed away a goal-bound Gabriel Jesus header on 36 minutes before stopping a curling Philippe Coutinho shot that was headed for the back of the net.
De Bruyne, playing in a more advanced role than he had in Belgium’s previous four matches, was at the heart of his team’s best work, managing the transition from rearguard defence to attack with vision, pace and accuracy.
Neymar had a penalty shout waved off early in the second half as he charged into the box and appeared to be tripped, but replays showed the referee made the right call.
VAR came into play soon after the Neymar penalty shout when Kompany tripped up Jesus near the Belgium goalline, but after review the video assistant did not award a spot kick to Brazil.
This was no repeat of Belo Horizonte four years ago, when Brazil were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals on home soil, and Tite’s side kept their shape and composure despite trailing by two goals.
And substitute Renato Augusto gave Brazil hope in the 76th minute with a glancing header from a deft Coutinho chip that beat Courtois and cut the Selecao’s deficit in half.
Brazil were nearly back on level terms twice soon after, but Augusto fired his shot from just outside the area wide of goal before Coutinho skied a shot from Neymar’s laid-off pass well over the bar.
Belgium will now face France, who beat Uruguay 2-0 earlier in the day, in the semifinal in St Petersburg on Tuesday to earn a place in the World Cup final.