Belgium’s reward for narrowly scraping past USA in the round of 16 was a quarter-final match up with Lionel Messi’s Argentina. As expected both Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois started for the Red Devils but Romelu Lukaku could only make the bench despite scoring the decisive goal in the previous game.
After some early jabbing, Argentina made the breakthrough in the 8th minute, a kind deflection found Gonzalo Higuain on the edge of the box who swivelled and struck a half volley neatly in the bottom corner past Courtois. An instinctive finish put Argentina 1-0 to the good.
De Bruyne had a shot from 25 yards which was easily but theatrically saved by Romero. Moments later Angel Di Maria limped off with a muscle injury.
Messi won himself a free kick on the edge of the box after being persistently kicked by Fellaini, the Barca star drilled the subsequent shot just over the bar.
A good cross whipped in by Verthongen was headed inches wide by Mirallas; arguably Belgium’s best chance of the half.
The first half came and went with Belgium’s continual slow build up play posing no threat to the Argentine goal.
Argentina made the first opening of the second half, Higuain had a Messi-like solo run which involved embarrassing Kompany with a nutmeg and hitting his shot into the cross bar.
Romelu Lukaku was introduced in the 60th minute replacing the fairly anonymous Origi.
Chelsea’s new number 10 Eden Hazard was replaced by Nacer Chadli in the 75th minute, a very underwhelming game for the winger.
In the dying minutes Messi had the chance to seal the game, one on one with Courtois there was only one outcome and that was a save from the big Belgian. Courtois rushed off his line and made himself big, blocking the ball with his right hand as Messi tried to poke it past.
Messi has still yet to score against either Cech or Courtois.
Mertens found Lukaku in the box with a clever through ball only for the striker to put in a tame cross which was well cleared by Garay. The clearance fell to Witsel on the edge of the box who sliced his shot over. Belgium had run out of time and chances.
All in all Belgium probably met expectations in terms of how far they would progress. However, more was needed from the likes of Lukaku and Hazard if they were going to pose a real threat to the likes of Brazil and Argentina. The rate in which Belgium have progressed in the last 18 months has been impressive, perhaps Euro 2016 will show us a better reflection.
Lukaku and Hazard’s fairly average performances aside, Thibaut Courtois showed again throughout the tournament that he is world class and easily amongst the top three goalkeepers in the world. As much as Petr Cech is adored by Chelsea fans, sentiment needs to be put aside and logic should take over. Courtois is ready and mature enough to be Chelsea’s number one for the next 10 years.
It’s over to Willian, Ramires, Oscar and Schurrle to bring a World Cup medal back to Stamford Bridge.