We analyse the performances of the Argentina and Belgium teams as Lionel Messi and his troops squeeze past the challenge of an underwhelming Belgium side in the Brazilian capital.
Argentina have become the third team to book their place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-finals, edging past Belgium 1-0 in Brasilia thanks to a fine goal from striker Gonzalo Higuain inside the opening ten minutes of the match.
Higuain spun sharply on the edge of the box to fire past Thibaut Courtois, scoring the goal that proved to be enough to take Argentina to their first semi-final for 24 years.
Despite not hitting full gear, Alejandro Sabella’s side were well worth their victory, dominating for long period against a Belgium side who underwhelmed and never looked like taking the game to extra time.
GK) Sergio Romero
6 – Rarely tested by a Belgium team who struggled to get shots on target, but did everything that was required of him confidently and efficiently.
RB) Pablo Zabaleta
7 – Rarely offered any threat in attack, but the Manchester City man had Chelsea’s Eden Hazard firmly under control until he was withdrawn by Marc Wilmots.
CB) Ezequiel Garay
7 – The Benfica man is quietly having a very good World Cup, once again defending with the utmost confidence, whilst also offering a genuine threat in the opposition box for set pieces.
CB) Martin Demichelis
7) – Something of a surprise inclusion in the team by Sabella, Manchester City’s Martin Demichelis rarely put a foot wrong, largely looking solid, although he could’ve been exploited by sharper play by Belgium once or twice.
LB) Jose Maria Basanta
7) – Brought in for the suspended Marcos Rojo, the man from CF Monterrey in Mexico was just as comfortable as the rest of his defensive teammates, rarely being troubled by Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard as they switched wings.
CM) Javier Mascherano
8) – An excellent performance from the former Liverpool man who shielded his defence brilliantly, covering space and intercepting the ball seemingly whenever Belgium looked to play through.
CM) Lucas Biglia
6) – A second defensive midfielder employed by Sabella, Lazio man Lucas Biglia wasn’t as noticeably key to the win as Mascherano, but also did little to upset the balance and rhythm of the side.
CM) Enzo Perez
6) – Brought on as an early substitute to replace the injured Angel di Maria, Benfica midfielder Perez slipped seamlessly into the Argentine midfield, although he didn’t provide the same threat going forward as the Real Madrid man.
ARM) Lionel Messi
8) – Nominally on the right but operating in what was basically a free role, the Belgian defence consistently struggled to pinch the ball from Lionel Messi as he helped to create yet another goal for his team.
ALM) Ezequiel Lavezzi
5) – Has benefited with a place in the starting line-up after Sergio Aguero’s injury but, in truth, hasn’t really got up to the pace of this World Cup so far, again operating largely on the periphery of the action.
SC) Gonzalo Higuain
8 – Easily his best performance of the tournament, Higuain ran the channels intelligently, scored a goal with a wonderful finish from the edge of the box and was unlucky not to double his tally when hitting the bar in the second half.