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Brazil take out as Belgium win 2-1 to move to semi final-with France

Years from now, future generations will wonder how the biggest and proudest footballing nation on earth were dislodged by a country with a smaller population than Sao Paulo.

Brazil had chances. A few ricochets in the box did not fall their way.The hysteria that always surrounds them, the sense of desire and expectation, perhaps becomes at times inhibitive. Tite, almost certainly, will be blamed, because that is what managers are for, but his half-time switch to a 4-4-2, bringing on Roberto Firmino in place of Willian and shifting Gabriel Jesus to the right, did improve matters.

The two goals came from Kevin De Bruyne in favour of Belgium. Renato Augusto did pull one back, heading in Philippe Coutinho’s chip with 14 minutes remaining but it was not enough.

Brazil take out as Belgium win 2-1 to move to semi final-with France
Fernandinho's own goal gave Belgium the lead (AFP/Getty Images)

Within half an hour, they were 2-0 down, and from their own attacking corner. Fellaini headed it away; Lukaku gathered the ball on the right. Decoy runners scattered around him like fireworks. With Fernandinho uncommitted. Lukaku simply ran straight past him. The pass went right to De Bruyne, whose finish was clipped satisfyingly into the bottom corner. 
Tite had to do something at the break. He brought on Roberto Firmino: an extra man prowling between the lines, an extra man pressing. And Brazil began the second half with more aggression and urgency. Gabriel Jesus made way for Douglas Costa, but not before he had nutmegged Jan Vertonghen and gone down in the area to provoke frenzied penalty appeals. Yet Belgium remained an ever-present threat: on the hour, Hazard missed a good chance to make the game safe there and then.

Brazil take out as Belgium win 2-1 to move to semi final-with France
De Bruyne doubled the lead (AFP/Getty Images)

Instead, Brazil made them sweat. Fellaini, who had a poor second half, stood too far off Philippe Coutinho, allowing him to deliver a dainty little cross to the back post. There Renato Augusto - who had come on for Paulinho just three minutes earlier - headed powerfully past Courtois. Now we would see what Belgium were made of.

And as Brazil’s fans finally and belatedly found their voice, their team responded. Augusto dragged wide with the goal at his mercy. Coutinho tried to place a shot from 12 yards, but sent it instead in the general direction of the Kazakh border. In the second minute of injury time, Courtois made a magnificent fingertip save to deny Neymar. That was all Brazil had to offer. The game was up.

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