What happened overnight?

Belgium announced themselves as genuine World Cup contenders, sensationally dumping out five-time champions Brazil 2-1 in Kazan.

That left the tournament devoid of South American sides after Uruguay, without the injured Edinson Cavani, were earlier eliminated 2-0 by a clinical France who reached the World Cup semi-finals for the sixth time.

Brazil's Neymar reacts during the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Belgium at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Kazan Arena, in Kazan, Russia. Photo / AP
Brazil's Neymar reacts during the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Belgium at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Kazan Arena, in Kazan, Russia. Photo / AP

Heroes

Advertisement

Belgium were 20 minutes from going out of the tournament against Japan in the round-of-16 before pulling their campaign out of the fire with three late goals.

Against Brazil today they showed the quality, class and work ethic which has many believing this may finally be the year they win a major tournament.

Kevin de Bruyne's goal which put them 2-0 up was an arrow into the bottom corner and a dagger into the heart of the South Americans and capped an exceptional display from the Manchester City midfielder.

Belgium then showed their defensive steel, holding off an increasingly desperate Brazilian side that pulled a goal back through Renato Augusto, but couldn't find an equaliser.

Meantime, elegant French defender Raphael Varane kept Luis Suarez shackled throughout the early game, preventing the Uruguayan superstar from firing off a single shot or – remarkably – even getting a touch of the football inside the penalty area.

There have been questions asked about the French defence during this tournament, but Varane impressively marshalled a back-four which – apart from him – contained three 22-year-olds, to keep Suarez and his countrymen at bay.

Varane also popped up to nod home his side's opener after 40 minutes; it was just the second time the South Americans had conceded in 400 minutes at the tournament and the first time they'd been behind during the 2018 World Cup.

Villains
The veteran of over 100 internationals, Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera made an inexplicable error to allow France to double their lead.

Antoine Griezmann's left-footed effort from outside the area was firmly struck but directed straight at Muslera who somehow managed to parry the ball into his own net.

Meantime, Belgium's opening goal came courtesy of Brazilian defender Fernandinho who became just the second Brazilian player to score a World Cup own-goal.

Stat chat
Belgium are unbeaten in their last 24 matches (W19 D5), a national record and the longest current run of any team left in the 2018 World Cup.

Excluding own goals, Kevin De Bruyne became the 100th different player to score at the 2018 World Cup.

Brazil have now been eliminated by a European side in each of the last four World Cups (France 2006, Netherlands 2010, Germany 2014 and Belgium 2018).

France have never lost when Antoine Griezmann has scored, collecting 18 wins and 2 draws in those games.

France's two goals came from their only two shots on target and they have now scored with their last six shots on target at this tournament.

Uruguay haven't won any of their last 17 World Cup games in which they've conceded the first goal (D3, L14), since beating France 2-1 in 1966.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku reacts after Brazil scored their 1st goal of the game during the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Belgium at the 2018 soccer World Cup. Photo / AP
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku reacts after Brazil scored their 1st goal of the game during the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Belgium at the 2018 soccer World Cup. Photo / AP

They said what?

Roberto Martinez, Belgium coach: "I never lost a game on the tactics board. It's the execution of the tactics that's important. That's about desire and wanting it to happen. I'm so proud as a coach."

Antoine Griezmann, French striker: "I didn't celebrate that goal because when I started as a professional player I was supported by a Uruguayan who taught me the good and bad things in football, so I have a lot of respect for Uruguay as a country. I was also playing against friends, so out of respect I thought that it was normal not to celebrate my goal."

Did you know?
Uruguay defender Diego Godin is the godfather of French striker Antoine Griezmann's daughter. The pair play together at Atletico Madrid.

What's next?
The remaining two quarter-finals are played tomorrow morning.

England meet Sweden in Samara at 2am (NZT) before hosts Russia face Croatia in Sochi at 6am.

Meantime, France and Belgium have set up a mouth-watering semi-final in St. Petersburg on Wednesday at 6am.