There is a famous photo posted by Eden Hazard five years ago to his Twitter account as Chelsea were about to head off on a pre-season tour of Malaysia and Thailand. “We are ready for Asia” said Eden as he sat in the dressing room with Romelu Lukaku on one side and Kevin De Bruyne on the other.
It’s not clear if Kazan, where Belgium played Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup can be counted as Asia — it’s generally considered to be on the border — but the three of them were more than ready.
Hazard and De Bruyne in particular were excellent, while Lukaku was close if a bit inaccurate with some of his touches and runs. But the overall effect it had was tangible and they cut Brazil’s defence to shreds repeatedly. That they only managed to score once, with the other goal coming from a Fernandinho own goal on a corner, was purely down to their profligacy in wasting countless excellent opportunities to put the game to bed.
Well, De Bruyne and Hazard attacking in sync is just as terrifying as I thought it would be.— Musa Okwonga (@Okwonga) July 6, 2018
Belgium were up 2-0 in the first thirty minutes and it really should’ve never been as close as the final scoreline indicated.
As it was, the game required a tremendous save from Thibaut Courtois as well, who used every bit of a his 6’5” frame to reach Neymar’s shot and tip it over the bar in added-on time. Before then, Renato Augusto clawed one back for the Selecao, who never quite managed to replicate their qualifying form in Russia.
The Red Devils move on to Tuesday’s semifinal against France, who dispatched Uruguay 2-0 in the day’s first game. N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud played the full match in what was another strong performance from Les Bleus.
Belgium vs. France is going to be tremendous. This game was, too, with the Golden Generation putting Golden Boy Neymar, who was really not helped by his usual supporting cast of Phillipe Coutinho and Willian (who was subbed at half-time) at all.
So, another national tragedy in Brazil as Belgium celebrate their historic success.