What a match it was Friday midnight! A cracker of a contest that was fought hard till the end.
Belgium and Brazil played a scintillating game but Lady Luck had the final say on who was to be knocked out. And it was Brazil! The five-time champions went home, but with their heads held high.
A good performance may not be good enough to win a knockout match. And to go all the way and win a World Cup a good team needs a fair slice of luck as well. Lady Luck was not on Brazil's side in that match.
If you missed out on the match, just look at the stats to know why Brazil should consider themselves unlucky on that day:
The losers took 27 shots at goal and the winners 9.
The losers had 9 shots on target against the winners 3.
The losers had 18 percent more possession than the winners.
The losing side made 521 passes (with 88 percent accuracy) against the winning side's 374 passes (with 80 percent accuracy).
The losers won 8 corners and the winners 3.
Brazil dominated the match from the word go, yet they ended up losers. Belgium could convert only one chance into a goal and Brazil squandered plenty of chances. Brazil looked a little wobbly in the absence of midfield stalwart Casemiro (suspended due to picking up two yellow cards), and Fernandinho's own goal in 13th minute was a result of this.
However, Kevin De Bruyne's second strike was a gem of a goal that scripted Brazil's exit. Kazan Arena, the picturesque stadium in Russia's autonomous republic of Tatarstan, turned out not to be a lucky ground for the top favourites. Defending champions Germany and favourites Argentina were the two teams dumped out of the tournament from this ground before Brazil.
The Selecao did all the big things so well across the field but failed to do a few small things in and around the opponents' box. Their dribbling, dodging, passing and tackling were excellent. But, while inside the box, one strange thing or another happened. Either Thiago Silva's instinctive shot with his thigh hit the post, Neymar's curling last-minute kick was saved by the 6-foot-6-inch Thibaut Courtois, Renato Augusto's nimble feet missed a sitter, Philippe Coutinho's dipping, swerving effort somehow found the outstretched fingers of Courtois or Douglas Costa's goal-bound boomer was deflected by the upturned leg of a defender.
Coach Tite, who pieced together a Brazil shattered by a 7-1 humiliation at hands of Germany four years back, is not a man who likes to talk about luck.
"When it is on our side it is a polite way of putting down the opponent. So, I don't believe in luck. Was Courtois lucky? No, he was great. It hit the woodwork, what can you do. Belgium were competent and effective," Tite said after the match.
Tite is understandably in a lot of pain, but he should be proud to see the hard work his charges put in. Argentina, Spain and Germany went home through humiliating defeats. In my opinion, it has been a wonderful recovery for Brazil in two years under Tite since the 2014 tragedy.
With the exit of the last Latin giants, the World Cup has become a contest of European countries for the ultimate glory in football. This fabulous victory should give Belgium a great boost to go all out against France in the semifinals on July 11.
The Golden Generation of Red Devils is now in a great hunting mood. And France should beware of Belgium.
The writer is former Sports Editor of The Daily Star
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