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Higuain lifts Argentina 1-0 win over Belgium in quarterfinal

English.news.cn   2014-07-06 04:50:29

BRASILIA, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Gonzalo Higuain scored his first goal at the Brazil World Cup here on Saturday, helping Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 to advance to semis for the first time since 1990.

Just eight minutes into the game, forward Higuain, who received a deflected pass from midfielder Angel Di Maria, turned quickly and fired a flash shot before the Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois could react. The stunning strike from the top of the area found the side netting at the far post.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said after the game, "After 24 years, we can be among the four best teams in the world. So as you can tell, this is a huge, but moderate joy. We have to reserve our energy."

In the World Cup 2006 and 2010, Argentina had been beaten by Germany twice in the quarterfinals.

In today's game, Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella fielded a 4-4-2 formation with Lionel Messi and Higuain in the frontline, while Belgium coach Marc Wilmots preferred the 4-2-3-1 with Divock Origi spearheading. Origi, 19, is the youngest player to start a World Cup quarterfinal since Pele played on June 19, 1958 when he was 17.

Despite the loss, Wilmots said after the game, "They were just an ordinary team. They can distort the rhythm -- they take 30 seconds to take a throw-in and the referee doesn't do anything."

Wilmots also claimed that Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli had gone easy on Messi during the game. "Every time there is a little foul it was always in favour of Argentina," he said. "Every time something happens with Messi, the referee gives him a free kick."

Sabella said before the game, "Any team that has a player like Messi will greatly depend on him. But I believe that what he's doing is the work of the entire team. He's part of a team."

Elected as the Man of the Match, Higuain for once outshone Messi who had been the MVP of Argentina's four World Cup matches before, but the Barcelona star made constant threats that kept Belgium on the back foot.

Argentina's front trio Higuain, Messi and Di Maria constantly looked to counter against an opposition looking to force an equaliser. However, the flow was interrupted when Di Maria went off with a thigh injury after firing a shot towards goal before halftime.

Sabella said Di Maria will undergo tests on Sunday, and there remains hope he could return to play in Wednesday's semifinal.

Giving in-form play today, Messi broke the Belgium backline several times to create chances for teammates. He also played the key role in the ball control in the second half in which the Belgians played all out to try to tie the score.

However, Messi squandered a brilliant scoring chance to seal the win in the last minute when he was in a solo run towards goal. Keeper Courtois came out quickly and cut down Messi's angle with his big frame.

Belgium's great chance came in the 43rd minute when Jan Vertonghen's cross found Kevin Mirallas in the box. But Mirallas' dive was just wide of the near post.

Eden Hazard, the key playmaker for Belgium in the previous matches, was disappointing and was replaced by Nacer Chadli on 75 minutes.

Both sides made several big changes in the second half. Sabella brought on the defensive-minded Fernando Gago in place of goal-scorer Higuain. And Wilmots let Eden Hazard out and the tower-like defender Daniel van Buyten stand in the opponents' box.

The Belgium's tactical change almost worked as Van Buyten's headers put great pressure on Argentina's defense. But luck was not on the Belgian side.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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