The golden generation of Belgium made a huge statement of intent to win a first World Cup dispatching giants, Brazil 2-1 in an enthralling quarter-final duel.
Fernandinho’s own goal early in the first half was bad enough but when De Bruyne shot a bullet after a masterful break from Lukaku, Belgium was over the hill and far away.
Brazil came back strongly in the second half with an Augusto late header to beat Courtois. It was game on. The Red Devils had to defend and they did with their lives.
Brazil missed glorious goalscoring opportunities to draw level, including a criminal miss by Coutinho and when Courtois pulled a superb injury-time save from a goal bound Neymar strike victory was sealed in a special way.
It was a Neymar-Hazard clash, two players with similar playing quality of skill, speed and dexterity but on the night it was the Belgian man who showed purpose, led with example, whilst the other in yellow, looked out of sorts, tried on many occasions to win an underserving sympathy, penalty from the referee.
He passed the ball around, played around and complained around a few times but neither the Belgian defence nor referee Mazic Milorad will be moved.
It was the five-time champions who started well and looked more hungry for a goal but Thiago Silva’s little touch from a corner after eight minutes went off the goal post.
A minute later it was the Brazilians who were on defensive duties, because of speedster Lukaku, who with a speed of light, tore away from his marker but Fellaini failed to make it count in the final third.
The Belgian defence looked jittery in the beginning with the Brazil attack lunging for the opener but in a goal-mouth melee Kompany and his men held on.
Against the run of play, the Red Devils got their noses in front in 13 minutes after a corner had taken a wicked deflection of Fernandinho. Brazil’s woes was Belgium’s gold.
Brazil lifted up their game somewhat, pressing deep for an equalizer but they had their woes deepened.
Lukaku had pounced on a loose ball in his own half shoved off a challenge from Paulinho with a lunge into Brazil’s vital area before setting up De Bryune.
From the edge of the box, with his man his right, the Man City man went for goal with a well-struck low bullet that left Brazil broken and Belgium in buoyant mood.
Brazil needed to make history; the history of being the first to turn around a two-goal deficit in the second half to win a World Cup game.
Coach Tite made his intentions clear in the second half by taking out Willian for Firminho and Jesus for Douglas Costa and the Brazilian attack appeared with a bite.
Costa caused a lot of problems for Belgium on the left with his cut in runs and incisive crosses but there was no one to connect.
If Costa was firing from the right, Marcelo was doing same from the left keeping Belgium defence under siege for most of part of the second half but when they break, the Brazilian defence also looked vulnerable with Lukaku using his power and Hazard his skill.
A goal was in sight and it came to the men in yellow. With 15 minutes of regulation time left, Coutinho advertised a clever little chip for substitute Augusto to connect with his head for an important Brazilian goal.
They looked motivated for an equalizer and should have had it. Augusto had the greatest chance of his life to change the story of Brazil but when the Belgian defence, for the first time, was split open with Courtois right at his mercy, Augusto shot wide.
If that was unpardonable, Coutinho’s miss from six yards was horribly embarrassing. The Barcelona man was set up perfectly in one of Neymar’s few productive contributions on the night but in the six-yard box and with an army of Belgian defence, Coutinho slapped the ball in an awkward fashion for a goal kick.
Neymar’s second productive contribution on the night was a perfect curl three minutes into added time but with the ball zooming into the net, Courtois flew mid-air with a superb fingertip save that will be relished by many Belgians many years to come.
It was save that saved the Belgians and left the Brazil hope of a comeback shattered. 2-1 it ended with Belgium booking a France clash in the semis.