Match ends, Argentina 1, Belgium 0.
World Cup 2014: Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Argentina reached their first World Cup semi-final since finishing as runners-up in 1990 with victory over Belgium in Brasilia.
Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal at Estadio Nacional, a thunderous early strike that ended his run of six international games without a goal.
But Belgium's so-called golden generation were undone by another quicksilver Lionel Messi performance, as Argentina set up a last-four encounter with Netherlands in Sao Paulo on Wednesday.
|2||Shots on target||1|
|3||Shots off target||6|
The two-time champions again failed to reach their fluid best, and it is significant that all five of their wins at this World Cup have been by a single goal.
Belgium went out with something of a whimper, lacking cohesion, creativity and precision and only threatening late on when they played one long ball after another towards Marouane Fellaini.
But on the day he equalled Diego Maradona's haul of 91 caps for Argentina, Messi stood apart, with a performance of majesty that propelled his side into the last four.
At times, he was balletic, at others he was bold. He played 40-yard passes with the precision of a master craftsman and pirouetted away from danger time and again.
Sharper to the ball, more urgent in possession, Argentina started the quicker of the sides.
With Brazil striker Neymar confined to a wheelchair, there was a sense the tournament needed one of its superstars to produce a performance to remember. Messi did not disappoint.
Belgium did not help themselves, however. Captain Vincent Kompany gave possession away carelessly inside his own half after eight minutes, the ball running to Messi.
The Barcelona forward spun away from two defenders and clipped a pass to Angel Di Maria. His pass was deflected into the path of Higuain, who swivelled and volleyed unerringly beyond Thibaut Courtois to send the tens of thousands of Argentina fans in the stadium into raptures.
|Argentina and Belgium mustered three shots on target, the lowest tally in a World Cup knockout game since the 1990 final.||Gonzalo Higuain has matched Lionel Messi's total of five World Cup goals for Argentina, having played nine games compared to Messi's 13.|
|This is the first time in World Cup history that Brazil and Argentina have both appeared in the semi-finals.||Belgium only conceded three goals in their five games at the 2014 World Cup finals.|
There was more Messi magic to come. Argentina's talisman danced his way through a crowd of Belgium players before being clipped on the edge of the area. His resulting free-kick curled narrowly wide but Belgium were on the back foot.
For much of the opening 45 minutes, the Red Devils were insipid, not inventive.
Kevin de Bruyne stung Sergio Romero's palms from distance and Kevin Mirallas headed a Jan Vertonghen cross narrowly wide, but there was little pace or purpose.
With Messi in the spotlight, Eden Hazard struggled to escape the shadow. Belgium were caught between wanting to throw caution to the wind and a fear of what Argentina might do on the counter attack.
An example came 10 minutes into the second half, when Mirallas lost the ball after a swift Belgium break. Higuain raced away, nutmegged Kompany and skimmed a curling shot onto the crossbar.
The introduction of substitutes Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens was an attempt to change that dynamic.
With time running out, Vertonghen found Fellaini, who headed over. Moments later, Ezequiel Garay almost deflected De Bruyne's cross into his own net. Hazard was replaced by Tottenham's Nacer Chadli as Marc Wilmots played his last card.
Belgium poured forward in search of a goal that might take them to extra time, but failed to produce a moment that called Romero into serious action. Messi had a chance to cap his display with a late goal, only for Courtois to smother his shot when the pair faced each other one on one.
With time running out, Belgium came again, Lukaku prodding a ball across goal before Axel Witsel fired the rebound over. But Argentina and Messi stood firm.
- 7Di MaríaSubstituted forPérezat 33'minutes
- 6BigliaBooked at 75mins
- 9HiguaínSubstituted forGagoat 81'minutes
- 22LavezziSubstituted forPalacioat 71'minutes
- 2AlderweireldBooked at 68mins
- 15van Buyten
- 11MirallasSubstituted forMertensat 60'minutes
- 17OrigiSubstituted forR Lukakuat 59'minutes
- 7De Bruyne
- 10HazardBooked at 53minsSubstituted forChadliat 75'minutes
- 9R Lukaku
- 21Vanden Borre
- Nicola Rizzoli
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Argentina 1, Belgium 0.
Attempt missed. Rodrigo Palacio (Argentina) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Lucas Biglia with a headed pass.
Attempt missed. Axel Witsel (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Attempt saved. Lionel Messi (Argentina) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Fernando Gago.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match Enzo Pérez (Argentina) because of an injury.
Hand ball by Daniel van Buyten (Belgium).
Corner, Belgium. Conceded by José Basanta.
Foul by Romelu Lukaku (Belgium).
José Basanta (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, Belgium. Dries Mertens tries a through ball, but Romelu Lukaku is caught offside.
Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Ezequiel Garay.
Attempt blocked. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Romelu Lukaku.
Toby Alderweireld (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Rodrigo Palacio (Argentina).
Offside, Belgium. Daniel van Buyten tries a through ball, but Marouane Fellaini is caught offside.
Axel Witsel (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Lionel Messi (Argentina).
Foul by Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium).
Javier Mascherano (Argentina) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, Argentina. Fernando Gago replaces Gonzalo Higuaín.
Foul by Axel Witsel (Belgium).
Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Offside, Belgium. Romelu Lukaku tries a through ball, but Nacer Chadli is caught offside.
Attempt blocked. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Toby Alderweireld.
Attempt missed. Dries Mertens (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.
Substitution, Belgium. Nacer Chadli replaces Eden Hazard.
Lucas Biglia (Argentina) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Lucas Biglia (Argentina).
Attempt blocked. Axel Witsel (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Marouane Fellaini (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Dangerous play by José Basanta (Argentina).
Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Belgium).
Lucas Biglia (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, Argentina. Javier Mascherano tries a through ball, but Gonzalo Higuaín is caught offside.
Substitution, Argentina. Rodrigo Palacio replaces Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Toby Alderweireld (Belgium) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Toby Alderweireld (Belgium).