Argentina 1 0 Belgium
5th Jul 2014 - 17:00
Quarter Final

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.

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.

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.