A gritty Belgium team beat five-time champions Brazil 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the World Cup 2018 to not only book their place in the semi-finals, but also proved the world that their 'golden generation' isn't just words, but also full of action.
Their performance against Brazil was a display of two contrasting halves, where they dominated the South Americans in the first half, but were under pressure during the second 45 minutes.
In the first half, the 'golden boys' of the golden generation were at it, and Brazil had no answer to them. Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard ran the show from attacking midfield to create all sorts of trouble for their opposition backline.
But in the initial minutes, it was Brazil who had the best chance to take the lead. A corner was floated in from the left by Neymar, which somehow reached to Thiago Silva. The defender did not have time to react, and his loopy effort hi the post.
After the early warning, Belgium took over, and there was no stopping them. The Red Devils took the lead through a stroke of good luck in the 13th minute. A corner from left was horribly dealt at the near post, and the ball hit the arm of Fernandinho and went into his own net.
The game was very open, yet, it seemed Belgium would be the next to score. And so they did in the 32nd minute. Romelu Lukaku, who has been enjoying a stellar tournament, broke through the middle of the Brazil defense before laying the ball to de Bruyne. The passing maestro took a touch, showed extreme composure before riffling his shot at the far post.
Having gone 2-0 down, Brazil finally woke up, and started to create clear cut chances. For the first 35 minutes, it was the attacking players of the golden generation doing their job. And now, it was time for Thibaut Courtois to join in the act.
Very soon after the goal, he made a tremendous save of Phillpe Coutinho to stop Brazil from coming back. At half time, it seemed the game was all set.
But in the second half, the five-time champions came out all guns blazing. Their attacking players were all over the Belgian defense. But the only thing which was lacking was putting the ball in the net. And it was looking impossible with Courtois having the 'game of his life'.
A small glimmer of hope could be seen in 76th minute, when substitute Renato Augusto headed past him to halve the deficit. That was it though, as the Belgian shot-stopper returned to his best, and stopped chances after chances.
In all, Courtois made a total of eight saves, some of which were truly extraordinary. When the final whistle blew, it was relief for Belgium for two reasons. One, they finally made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1986. And secondly, the golden generation proved it has the ability go the distance.