On Friday night, we saw yet another excellent game of football at World Cup 2018, as Belgium beat Brazil 2-1 to make it into the semi-finals of the competition. The display was one of maturity and showed that they have come of age in recent years.
Fantastic first-half display
The first half was breathless and seemed to be played at a breakneck speed. Belgium playing against the team regarded as the best in the competition finally showed they could compete.
The Red Devils may have got slightly fortunate with the first goal, as Fernandinho put the ball into his own net, but by the end of the half, they richly deserved their two-goal lead.
The Belgium front three of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne were superb in that first half. Lukaku in that sort of mood is unstoppable. He harassed, harried and generally made a nuisance of himself while holding the ball up expertly. All that was missing from a complete first half display was a goal for the Manchester United striker.
De Bruyne did get a goal, and it was a thing of beauty, a typically powerful long-range effort from Belgium’s pass master general. His intelligence was well utilised in a more attacking role against Brazil.
Hazard can blow hot and cold. Against the Selecao, the Chelsea winger was hot, retaining the ball and doing what he does best terrorising the opposition with penetrative runs.
Strong defensive rearguard action in the second half
The second half was a very different affair, as a Brazilian onslaught was always likely with the Selecao two goals down from the first-half. The South American’s did look more dangerous in the second period, especially after the introduction of livewire winger Douglas Costa.
Philippe Coutinho created Brazil’s goal beautifully for Renato Augusto. However, apart from the goal the Belgian defence held firm, despite some now inevitable theatrics from Neymar.
Roberto Martinez’s side required a bit of luck along the way, as Gabriel Jesus was slightly unfortunate not to win a penalty after a poor tackle from Vincent Kompany. Arguably the Red Devils deserved their luck after a magnificent defensive display against one of the best frontlines in world football.
One of the favourites to lift the World Cup
Following their win over Brazil, Belgium are now the second favourites to lift the World Cup in just over a week’s time. Roberto Martinez’s side headed into the competition as strong outsiders to win the competition. That status was very much because they have not fulfilled their potential at recent international tournaments, most notably Euro 2016.
However, it seems that Martinez now has the formula for bringing all those individual talents together as a team, and they are thriving. The Spaniard and his coaching staff deserve immense credit for the team’s displays in Russia.
Belgium have previously only made the World Cup semi-finals on one occasion, which was back in 1986 when they finished fourth-place in Mexico. The current crop will at least match their predecessors.
However, the aim is now not just to match their predecessors but also to win the World Cup for the first time in their history. That aim is now a realistic aim, as they have to be fancied to lift the trophy.
Will Belgium win World Cup 2018?