Brazil'sWorld Cup came to a premature end on Friday, when the five-time victor was eliminated from the competition following a 2-1 loss to a talented Belgium side at Kazan Arena.
If you glanced at the match stats from Friday's quarterfinal and ignored the scoreline, you'd feel relatively safe in assuming that an ultra-aggressive Brazil scored a flurry of goals and breezed past Belgium into the semifinal.
But Belgium, now unbeaten in 24 matches, sensationally doubled their lead by breaking from a Brazil corner in the 31st minute. They will wait for Brazil to take control of the match but will also have their moments of offensive power. They won their only World Cup in 1998 on home soil, and in 2006 lost to Italy on penalties. We had to be courageous tactically. The execution of the tactics was magnificent.
"Sometimes you have to accept that Brazil has got this finesse, that quality, and that they're going to break you down, and [Belgium] just refused to accept that".
Neymar looking anguished during Brazil's World Cup quarter-finals match against Belgium.
"There has been so much debate about Neymar simulating fouls or wasting time on the floor, but I think that in a competition like this - with VAR - we shouldn't be paying too much attention to this", Betfair ambassador and 2002 World Cup victor, Rivaldo said.
Usually deployed in a more central role in the 3-4-2-1 used by Martinez in the last-gasp 3-2 win over Japan in the last 16, De Bruyne responded positively when the wily Spanish coach called for changes.
"I know it's not easy to play against Brazil", midfielder De Bruyne added. De Bruyne made no mistake as he lashed home a thunderous drive from distance.
"I did what I had to do, making sure the team is calm in hard situations".
"Now we need more energy for the next game, " Martinez said, "so let's make sure that we're all together and we're all driving each other to be as good as we can.in the semifinal". That's what I tell them all the time: the coach works to get them well organised off the ball and in the build-up.
For De Bruyne, the euphoria that followed Friday's win needs some tempering with nothing achieved yet by Belgium's "golden generation".
The Manchester United striker, who has scored four goals at this summer's World Cup finals, dribbled from deep in his own half, driving forward with pace, power and objective, before picking out De Bruyne.
In the end, it proved decisive.
After two days rest and recuperation - for both players and fans alike! - the World Cup finals get back underway with a vengeance in Russian Federation today with two mouth-watering quarter-finals to look forward to. But it was too late for Brazil to muster an equalizer as Courtois thwarted several efforts to force the game into extra time.