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|BRASILIA Alexander Steen Blues Jersey , July 5 (Xinhua) -- Gonzalo Higuain scored his first goal at the Brazil World Cup here on Saturday, helping Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 to advance to semis for the first time since 1990.
Just eight minutes into the game, forward Higuain, who received a deflected pass from midfielder Angel Di Maria, turned quickly and fired a flash shot before the Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could react. The stunning strike from the top of the area found the side netting at the far post.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said after the game, "After 24 years Brayden Schenn Blues Jersey , we can be among the four best teams in the world. So as you can tell, this is a huge, but moderate joy. We have to reserve our energy."
In the World Cup 2006 and 2010, Argentina had been beaten by Germany twice in the quarterfinals.
In today's game, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella fielded a 4-4-2 formation with Lionel Messi and Higuain in the frontline, while Belgium coach Marc Wilmots preferred the 4-2-3-1 with Divock Origi spearheading. Origi Scottie Upshall Blues Jersey , 19, is the youngest player to start a World Cup quarterfinal since Pele played on June 19, 1958 when he was 17.
Despite the loss, Wilmots said after the game, "They were just an ordinary team. They can distort the rhythm -- they take 30 seconds to take a throw-in and the referee doesn't do anything."
Wilmots also claimed that Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli had gone easy on Messi during the game. "Every time there is a little foul it was always in favour of Argentina," he said. "Every time something happens with Messi Joel Edmundson Blues Jersey , the referee gives him a free kick."
Sabella said before the game, "Any team that has a player like Messi will greatly depend on him. But I believe that what he's doing is the work of the entire team. He's part of a team."
Elected as the Man of the Match, Higuain for once outshone Messi who had been the MVP of Argentina's four World Cup matches before, but the Barcelona star made constant threats that kept Belgium on the back foot.
Argentina's front trio Higuain, Messi and Di Maria constantly looked to counter against an opposition looking to force an equaliser. However, the flow was interrupted when Di Maria went off with a thigh injury after firing a shot towards goal before halftime.
Sabella said Di Maria will undergo tests on Sunday Carl Gunnarsson Blues Jersey , and there remains hope he could return to play in Wednesday's semifinal.
Giving in-form play today, Messi broke the Belgium backline several times to create chances for teammates. He also played the key role in the ball control in the second half in which the Belgians played all out to try to tie the score.
However, Messi squandered a brilliant scoring chance to seal the win in the last minute when he was in a solo run towards goal. Keeper Courtois came out quickly and cut down Messi's angle with his big frame.
Belgium's great chance came in the 43rd minute when Jan Vertonghen's cross found Kevin Mirallas in the box. But Mirallas' dive was just wide of the near post.
Eden Hazard, the key playmaker for Belgium in the previous matches, was disappointing and was replaced by Nacer Chadli on 75 minutes.
Both sides made several big changes in the second half. Sabella brought on the defensive-minded Fernando Gago in place of goal-scorer Higuain. And Wilmots let Eden Hazard out and the tower-like defender Daniel van Buyten stand in the opponents' box.
The Belgium's tactical change almost worked as Van Buyten's headers put great pressure on Argentina's defense. But luck was not on the Belgian side.
BELGIUM is going to a major tournament for the third straight time, and this once-in-a-lifetime team could thrive all the way to the World Cup final.
With two games to spare Vladimir Sobotka Jersey , Belgium became the first European nation to qualify for next yearís tournament in Russia. And it did so on Sunday by the measure that has marked so many great teams: winning ugly.
For 70 minutes, Greece held the star-studded Belgium team in check with a strategy that can only be called super defensive ó a tactic which the Belgians deployed to near perfection whenever they considered themselves an underdog. Then, two sparks of brilliance, capped with a glancing header from Romelu Lukaku, led the way to a 2-1 victory.
With that, there is no more hiding from its role as a World Cup favorite. ďOf course we go to Russia to win Colton Parayko Jersey ,Ē Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told the Het Laastste Nieuws daily. ďYou always want to be the best.Ē
The Chelsea goalkeeper, like so many others on the squad, has a proven record at club level. But internationally, he and others have underperformed.
The creative quartet of Manchester Cityís Kevin De Bruyne, Chelseaís Eden Hazard, Napoliís Dries Mertens and Manchester Unitedís Lukaku Carter Hutton Jersey , along with defensive mainstays Courtois, Spursí Jan Vertonghen and Cityís Vincent Kompany, reached the last 8 in Brazil three years ago. But back then, the excuse was still youth and inexperience as they lost to Argentina.
The 2016 European Championship in France was the next test, but Belgium again failed to get past the quarterfinals, losing to Wales. Coaching blunders were blamed and Marc Wilmots left Jake Allen Jersey , replaced by Spanish coach Roberto Martinez.
After a decade of coaching Premier League also-rans like Swansea, Wigan and Everton, Belgium took the risk of hiring Martinez to mold its collection of talent into a tight team.
The victory extended Belgiumís unbeaten streak to 11 matches, and Martinez can get the national team record when his team plays Bosnia-Herzegovina next month.
Such is the poise and promise that qualifying for another big tournament, something the Belgians failed to do between 2002 and 2014, hardly merited a celebration.
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