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.

Match statistics

Argentina

Belgium

1

Goals

0

2

Shots on target

1

3

Shots off target

6

5

Blocked Shots

3

3

Corners

4

11

Fouls

14

46

Possession %

54

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.

Sabella nearly falls over after chance

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.

Match facts

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.

Argentina's Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona

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.

Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain

Gonzalo Higuain ended an international scoring drought of 528 minutes when he struck the winner.

Angel Di Maria

Angel Di Maria was a constant thorn in the Belgium defence before he was injured in the first half.

Argentina v Belgium

Argentina supporters outnumbered their Belgian rivals inside the Estadio Nacional, but there were still plenty of Red Devils fans providing a splash of red colour in the stands.

Argentina players celebrate

This is the first time since 1986 (2-1 v England) that Argentina have won a quarter-final outright in 90 minutes

Argentina v Belgium

Lionel Messi earned his 91st cap for Argentina, moving him level with Diego Maradona.

Lineup, Bookings (3) & Substitutions (6)

Argentina

  • 01 Romero
  • 04 Zabaleta
  • 23 Basanta
  • 14 Mascherano
  • 15 Demichelis
  • 02 Garay
  • 07 Di María (Pérez - 33' )
  • 06 Biglia Booked
  • 09 Higuaín (Gago - 81' )
  • 10 Messi
  • 22 Lavezzi (Palacio - 71' )

Substitutes

  • 03 Campagnaro
  • 05 Gago
  • 08 Pérez
  • 11 Rodríguez
  • 12 Orión
  • 13 Fernández
  • 17 Fernández
  • 18 Palacio
  • 19 Álvarez
  • 20 Agüero
  • 21 Andujar

Belgium

  • 01 Courtois
  • 02 Alderweireld Booked
  • 05 Vertonghen
  • 06 Witsel
  • 15 van Buyten
  • 04 Kompany
  • 11 Mirallas (Mertens - 60' )
  • 08 Fellaini
  • 17 Origi (Lukaku - 59' )
  • 07 De Bruyne
  • 10 Hazard Booked (Chadli - 75' )

Substitutes

  • 03 Vermaelen
  • 09 Lukaku
  • 12 Mignolet
  • 13 Bossut
  • 14 Mertens
  • 16 Defour
  • 18 Lombaerts
  • 19 Dembélé
  • 20 Januzaj
  • 21 Vanden Borre
  • 22 Chadli
  • 23 Ciman
Ref: Nicola Rizzoli
Att: 68,551

Match Stats

Shots

10 10

On target

2 1

Corners

3 4

Fouls

11 14

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Argentina 1, Belgium 0.

90:00 +5:00 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Argentina 1, Belgium 0.

90:00 +4:49

Attempt missed. Rodrigo Palacio (Argentina) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Lucas Biglia with a headed pass.

90:00 +4:07

Attempt missed. Axel Witsel (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

90:00 +3:24

Attempt saved. Lionel Messi (Argentina) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Fernando Gago.

90:00 +0:21

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

89:45

Delay in match Enzo Pérez (Argentina) because of an injury.

88:36

Hand ball by Daniel van Buyten (Belgium).

87:49

Corner, Belgium. Conceded by José Basanta.

86:33

Foul by Romelu Lukaku (Belgium).

86:33

José Basanta (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

85:05

Offside, Belgium. Dries Mertens tries a through ball, but Romelu Lukaku is caught offside.

84:19

Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Ezequiel Garay.

84:17

Attempt blocked. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Romelu Lukaku.

83:56

Toby Alderweireld (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

83:56

Foul by Rodrigo Palacio (Argentina).

83:14

Offside, Belgium. Daniel van Buyten tries a through ball, but Marouane Fellaini is caught offside.

82:48

Axel Witsel (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

82:48

Foul by Lionel Messi (Argentina).

81:52

Foul by Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium).

81:52

Javier Mascherano (Argentina) wins a free kick on the left wing.

80:43 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Argentina. Fernando Gago replaces Gonzalo Higuaín.

78:41

Foul by Axel Witsel (Belgium).

78:41

Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) wins a free kick on the right wing.

76:02

Offside, Belgium. Romelu Lukaku tries a through ball, but Nacer Chadli is caught offside.

76:01

Attempt blocked. Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Toby Alderweireld.

75:17

Attempt missed. Dries Mertens (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.

74:52 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Belgium. Nacer Chadli replaces Eden Hazard.

74:21 Booking

Booking Lucas Biglia (Argentina) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

74:13

Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) wins a free kick on the left wing.

74:13

Foul by Lucas Biglia (Argentina).

73:38

Attempt blocked. Axel Witsel (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

72:40

Marouane Fellaini (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

72:40

Dangerous play by José Basanta (Argentina).

71:41

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Belgium).

71:41

Lucas Biglia (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

70:26

Offside, Argentina. Javier Mascherano tries a through ball, but Gonzalo Higuaín is caught offside.

70:13 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Argentina. Rodrigo Palacio replaces Ezequiel Lavezzi.

67:50 Booking

Booking Toby Alderweireld (Belgium) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

67:47

Foul by Toby Alderweireld (Belgium).

67:47

Lucas Biglia (Argentina) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

64:06

Eden Hazard (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

64:06

Foul by Lucas Biglia (Argentina).

63:08

Foul by Toby Alderweireld (Belgium).

63:08

Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) wins a free kick on the left wing.

61:32

Offside, Belgium. Dries Mertens tries a through ball, but Marouane Fellaini is caught offside.

61:15

Jan Vertonghen (Belgium) wins a free kick on the left wing.

61:15

Foul by Lucas Biglia (Argentina).

60:48

Foul by Dries Mertens (Belgium).

60:48

Enzo Pérez (Argentina) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

60:16

Attempt missed. Marouane Fellaini (Belgium) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Jan Vertonghen with a cross following a set piece situation.

59:44

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

59:23

Delay in match Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina) because of an injury.

59:05 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Belgium. Dries Mertens replaces Kevin Mirallas.

58:53 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Belgium. Romelu Lukaku replaces Divock Origi.

54:20

Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) hits the bar with a right footed shot from the right side of the box. Assisted by Enzo Pérez.

53:33

Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Thibaut Courtois.

52:50 Booking

Booking Eden Hazard (Belgium) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

52:32

Lucas Biglia (Argentina) wins a free kick on the right wing.

52:32

Foul by Eden Hazard (Belgium).

50:48

Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Daniel van Buyten.

50:46

Attempt blocked. Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ezequiel Lavezzi.

46:35

Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

46:35

Foul by Vincent Kompany (Belgium).

45:00

Second Half begins Argentina 1, Belgium 0.

45:00 +2:00 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Argentina 1, Belgium 0.

45:00 +1:13

Hand ball by Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina).

41:57

Corner, Argentina. Conceded by Vincent Kompany.

41:15

Attempt missed. Kevin Mirallas (Belgium) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Jan Vertonghen with a cross.

39:50

Attempt missed. Lionel Messi (Argentina) left footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high from a direct free kick.

38:06

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Belgium).

38:06

Lionel Messi (Argentina) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

33:17

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Belgium).

33:17

Martín Demichelis (Argentina) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

32:41 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Argentina. Enzo Pérez replaces Ángel Di María because of an injury.

32:32

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

31:39

Delay in match Ángel Di María (Argentina) because of an injury.

31:16

Divock Origi (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

31:16

Foul by Ezequiel Garay (Argentina).

29:31

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

28:28

Delay in match Ángel Di María (Argentina) because of an injury.

27:39

Attempt blocked. Ángel Di María (Argentina) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Lionel Messi with a through ball.

25:44

Vincent Kompany (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

25:44

Foul by Lionel Messi (Argentina).

25:31

Attempt saved. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Axel Witsel.

22:49

Offside, Belgium. Vincent Kompany tries a through ball, but Divock Origi is caught offside.

22:02

Offside, Belgium. Toby Alderweireld tries a through ball, but Marouane Fellaini is caught offside.

18:42

Foul by Lionel Messi (Argentina).

18:42

Axel Witsel (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

17:07

Attempt missed. Vincent Kompany (Belgium) header from the left side of the six yard box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Kevin De Bruyne with a cross following a corner.

16:25

Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Ezequiel Garay.

15:37

Lionel Messi (Argentina) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

15:37

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Belgium).

14:09

Corner, Belgium. Conceded by José Basanta.

12:55

Attempt missed. Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Eden Hazard following a fast break.

12:25

Attempt blocked. Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Javier Mascherano.

7:29 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Argentina 1, Belgium 0. Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.

5:44

Attempt blocked. Ángel Di María (Argentina) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Javier Mascherano.

5:33

Ezequiel Lavezzi (Argentina) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

5:33

Foul by Marouane Fellaini (Belgium).

3:37

Attempt blocked. Ángel Di María (Argentina) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Lucas Biglia.

1:18

Axel Witsel (Belgium) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

1:18

Foul by Javier Mascherano (Argentina).

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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