World Cup

World Cup 2014: Argentina 1-0 Belgium

By Ben SmithBBC Sport in Brasilia
Highlights: 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.

Match statistics
2Shots on target1
3Shots off target6
5Blocked Shots3
46Possession %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.



Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Romero
  • 4Zabaleta
  • 23Basanta
  • 14Mascherano
  • 15Demichelis
  • 2Garay
  • 7Di MaríaSubstituted forPérezat 33'minutes
  • 6BigliaBooked at 75mins
  • 9HiguaínSubstituted forGagoat 81'minutes
  • 10Messi
  • 22LavezziSubstituted forPalacioat 71'minutes


  • 3Campagnaro
  • 5Gago
  • 8Pérez
  • 11Rodríguez
  • 12Orión
  • 13Fernández
  • 17Fernández
  • 18Palacio
  • 19Álvarez
  • 20Agüero
  • 21Andujar


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Courtois
  • 2AlderweireldBooked at 68mins
  • 5Vertonghen
  • 6Witsel
  • 15van Buyten
  • 4Kompany
  • 11MirallasSubstituted forMertensat 60'minutes
  • 8Fellaini
  • 17OrigiSubstituted forLukakuat 59'minutes
  • 7De Bruyne
  • 10E HazardBooked at 53minsSubstituted forChadliat 75'minutes


  • 3Vermaelen
  • 9Lukaku
  • 12Mignolet
  • 13Bossut
  • 14Mertens
  • 16Defour
  • 18Lombaerts
  • 19Dembélé
  • 20Januzaj
  • 21Vanden Borre
  • 22Chadli
  • 23Ciman
Nicola Rizzoli

Match Stats

Home TeamArgentinaAway TeamBelgium
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Argentina 1, Belgium 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Argentina 1, Belgium 0.

  3. Post update

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

  4. Post update

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

  5. Post update

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

  6. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  7. Post update

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

  8. Post update

    Hand ball by Daniel van Buyten (Belgium).

  9. Post update

    Corner, Belgium. Conceded by José Basanta.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Romelu Lukaku (Belgium).

  11. Post update

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

  12. Post update

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

  13. Post update

    Corner, Belgium. Conceded by Ezequiel Garay.

  14. Post update

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

  15. Post update

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

  16. Post update

    Foul by Rodrigo Palacio (Argentina).

  17. Post update

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

  18. Post update

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

  19. Post update

    Foul by Lionel Messi (Argentina).

  20. Post update

    Foul by Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium).