Germany welcomes world champions home

Football’s top prize arrives in reunified Germany for the first time

More than 250,000 jubilant fans gathered at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday to welcome the World Cup winners and new national heroes bringing home football’s top prize for the first time to a reunified Germany.

The flag-waving crowd erupted in applause after screens showed the flight bringing the triumphant players to the German capital from Rio de Janeiro touch down shortly after 0800 GMT.

Crowds began arriving in central Berlin before dawn and thousands more supporters gathered on a viewing platform under warm summer sunshine at Tegel airport to meet the plane, a Lufthansa jet rebranded for the occasion “Fanhansa” on one side and “Victors’ Plane” on the other.

Captain Philipp Lahm was the first player to emerge, clutching the golden FIFA trophy in one hand and lifting it in the direction of applauding supporters.

Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, his shoulders draped with the black, red and gold German flag, followed him down the steps to the tarmac, where airport employees snapped photos with their mobile phones as fans cheered.

“This is a historic event,” said 34-year-old bus driver Bernd Hesse, who managed to follow all the matches in Brazil on the radio when he was behind the wheel.

He noted that Germany fans had waited 24 years to bask in the glory of a World Cup victory, the first since the reunification of the country following three wins by the former West Germany.

“It’s not every day that you get to see something like this,” he said.

Lydia Lampa, a 28-year-old advertising executive, stopped by the airport with a friend on her way to work.

Wearing a Germany jersey adorned with the coveted fourth star for the latest World Cup win and a Hawaiian-style garland of plastic flowers in the national colours, she said she had watched every World Cup match featuring the Mannschaft.

“This is my way of saying thank you,” she said.

“All the games were exciting and I wanted to see the players at least once live. I had a good feeling from the start of the tournament and I thought, ‘OK, this time we’re going to win’.”

The players boarded a black bus to ferry them to central Berlin. After meeting Mayor Klaus Wowereit, they will take their places on a giant stage at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity since the country ended its Cold War division in 1990.

That was the last year a West German team won the tournament and Sunday’s nail-biter extra-time 1-0 victory over Argentina marked the first time that a side representing both the west and the former communist east brought home the trophy.

More than 250,000 fans had rallied behind the German side on the so-called Fan Mile behind the Gate during the match late on Sunday.

By around 0830 GMT on Tuesday, police said the venue to watch the players and coach Joachim Low hoist the trophy was full with over a quarter-million supporters and advised those turned away to watch on television.

Supporters on the Fan Mile sang “This is what victors look like!” and waved German flags, which rarely make an appearance outside major sporting events in the country in deference to its militaristic past.

Ulrich Felgentreff said he was born in 1954, the first year West Germany won the World Cup — just nine years after the horrors of World War II, as the country was gradually rejoining the community of nations.

Pride grows

“Everyone has an immense feeling of pride,” he said, decked out with his family in black, red and gold. “And that pride grows title by title.”

By contrast, 18-year-old fan Sven Engel was not even born the last time West Germany won.

“Germany deserves this title, they were much stronger than the other teams,” Engel said.

“But the Brazil match was still the best,” he said, referring to the jaw-dropping 7-1 thrashing of the host during the semifinal.

The German media ran banner headlines and even normally staid business daily Handelsblatt joined in the national celebration.

It quoted the head of Germany’s top Deutsche Bank, Juergen Fitschen, singing the national side’s praises.

“The German team embodies many of the qualities that typify Germany today: commitment, discipline, technical skill and tactical know-how,” he said.

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Germany do it again to Argentina to win fourth World Cup title

Mario Goetze scored a superb extra-time winner as Germany beat Argentina 1-0 to become the first European team to win a World Cup held in South America on Sunday.

Bayern Munich star Goetze struck in the 113th minute to finally break Argentina’s resistance as Lionel Messi’s dream of emulating Diego Maradona ended in defeat.

Germany has now won four World Cups, putting the European powerhouses just one behind Brazil’s record tally of five.

“It’s unbelievable what we have achieved. Whether we have the best individual player doesn’t matter at all, you just need to have the best team,” said delighted Germany captain Philipp Lahm.

“We improved throughout the tournament and didn’t get down when things didn’t always go our way, we just stuck to our path and at the end we’re standing here as world champions. It’s an unbelievable feeling.

“The team stayed calm and patient, we knew that we had something left at the end.”

The decisive moment of a World Cup brimming with wonderful goals came with penalties looming in front of 74,738 fans at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana Stadium.

Andre Schuerrle burst clear down the left flank and crossed for Goetze.
The 22-year-old took the ball on his chest and then volleyed past Sergio Romero to spark delirium amongst the largely pro-German crowd.

Messi largely anonymous

Messi was largely anonymous for most of the evening and his miserable evening was summed up when a late free-kick to equalise sailed over the bar.

The victory was celebrated raucously by Brazilians in the crowd, who had dreaded the prospect of sworn South American rivals Argentina lifting the title in their backyard.

An absorbing first half saw Germany forced into a reshuffle moments before kick-off with inexperienced Christoph Kramer replacing Sami Khedira after the Real Madrid star injured a calf in the warm up.

With Bastian Schweinsteiger running midfield the Germans laid siege to Argentinian territory, passing smoothly and denying Messi a route into the game.

Yet for all Germany’s early dominance they created little in the way of clear chances.

And it was Argentina who were presented with a glorious chance to open the scoring.

Toni Kroos misdirected a header back to Manuel Neuer to send Gonzalo Higuain racing through on goal.

But with only Neuer to beat the Napoli striker dragged his shot wide to disbelief from fans and team-mates.

Germany continued to probe for openings, and a Lahm pass almost put Thomas Mueller clear.

The pace of Argentina on the counter-attack continued to unsettle Germany however.

Schweinsteiger picked up a yellow card for bringing down Ezequiel Lavezzi just after the half hour mark.

Moments later, Higuain had the ball in the net for Argentina only to see the goal disallowed for offside.

Dutch clinch third place with 3-0 win over miserable Brazil

The Netherlands clinched third place in the 2014 World Cup with a 3-0 crushing of Brazil on Saturday, adding to the hosts’ miserable finale to the tournament.

After their worst-ever World Cup defeat — a 7-1 drubbing against Germany in the semi-finals — a still shell-shocked Brazil side could not salvage the country’s pride at Brasilia’s Estadio Nacional, conceding two goals inside 17 minutes.

Robin Van Persie netted in the first with a penalty after just three minutes, while defender Daley Blind scored the second less than a quarter of an hour later. Substitute Georginio Wijnaldum clinched the Netherlands’ third during injury time.

This is the first time that the Dutch have ended a World Cup in third place, having lost in the 1974, 1978 and 2010 finals and in their only other battle for third place, against Croatia in 1998.

Brazil, by contrast, leave the tournament with their tails between their legs, having failed to win a World Cup on home soil for a second time and with a campaign that will always be remembered for their semi-final humiliation in Belo Horizonte.

For a game that neither would have wanted to play, it was to be expected that both coaches would make a number of changes to their starting lineups.

Brazil welcomed back captain Thiago Silva, who was sorely missed against Germany, but dropped left-back Marcelo and out-of-favour Fred, fielding Jo up front instead.

Louis Van Gaal had to do without creative midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who picked up a last-minute injury, and Nigel de Jong, replacing the pair with Jonathan De Guzman and Jordy Clasie.

Brazilian star Neymar joined his team-mates on the bench, despite being unable to play after fracturing a vertebra in the quarter-final game against Colombia.

Despite there being little to play for, Luiz Felipe Scolari had insisted before the game that his players should go out and “honour the national team jersey”. But despite pockets of encouragement from the stands, the hosts never looked like having a clear game plan and suffered a nightmare start to the game.

As the Dutch made their first attacking manoeuvre, Arjen Robben was served a wonderful deep ball from Van Persie and made a run for goal, only to be brought down by Thiago Silva. Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi awarded a penalty and booked Thiago Silva, despite the fact that the Brazilian captain could have been shown a red card for denying the Dutch winger a clear opportunity at goal.

In any event, captain Van Persie put the Dutch in front after just three minutes of play with a well-taken penalty kick to score his fourth goal of the tournament.

Less than a quarter of an hour passed before the hosts had conceded a second.

And yet again it was David Luiz, who had been singled out as one of the worst Brazilian players against Germany, who made another error.

This time it was his poor clearance that ended up delivering the ball on a plate to Blind, who had plenty of time to beat goalkeeper Julio Cesar with a comfortable finish from the centre of the area.

Still mindful of their semi-final drubbing, Brazil struggled to make an impact, although they came close in the 38th only for Paulinho and David Luiz to narrowly fail to connect with the ball following a flick by Luis Gustavo.

The end of the first half was greeted by jeers and boos from the crowd.

Scolari replaced Luiz Gustavo with Manchester City’s Fernandinho and also brought in Hernanes for Paulinho after the break, but it was the Dutch who continued to look the more threatening side, with Robben a constant thorn on Brazil’s right flank.

And despite plenty of good will, Brazil rarely looked like threatening a well-organized Dutch side and ended up conceding a third goal during injury time.

Brazil had come into the World Cup knowing that nothing less than a sixth title would satisfy the fans. Instead, they ended the campaign conceding a record number of goals – 14 – and their first consecutive home defeats since 1940.

For Van Gaal, it was a fitting final game at the helm of the Dutch national team. The master tactician has already signed a contract with Manchester United and can join the English club claiming that — excluding the penalty shoot-out against Argentina — his team left Brazil undefeated.

Semi Finals 2: Argentina beat Dutch on penalties to enter World Cup final

Sergio Romero saved twice as Argentina defeated the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties to set up a third World Cup final against Germany.

Sergio Romero saved twice as Argentina defeated the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties on Wednesday to set up a third World Cup final against Germany on Sunday.

The Monaco goalkeeper parried spot kicks from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder to see the Albiceleste through after 120 minutes of negative semi-final football from both sides had ended 0-0.

Lionel Messi, Ezquiel Garay, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez converted Argentina’s spot kicks while Arjen Robben and Wesley Snijder were on target for the Dutch.

It was the first World Cup semi-final ever to end 0-0 after 120 minutes, and the Dutch failed to score in 240 minutes overall as they had required penalties to beat Costa Rica in the quarter-finals.

The scrappy match without a single serious scoring chance was far from worthy of a World Cup semi, and Argentina will need a massive effort if they want to lift the trophy a third time after 1978 and 1986.

Germany hammered hosts Brazil 7-1 in the first semi-final on Tuesday and must be rated big favourites for Sunday.

It will be a record third World Cup final between the two, with Argentina winning the title 3-2 in 1986 and the Germans 1-0 four years later. Germany also eliminated Argentina in the quarter-finals of the last two World Cups. Argentina are in the final a fifth time overall.

Dutch coach Louis van Gaal opted for caution again with a 5-3-2 formation, with Nigel de Jong back from a groin injury to shadow Messi. Robin van Persie was fit to play from a stomach bug.

Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella fielded Enzo Perez as expected for the injured Angel di Maria and welcomed back defender Marcos Rojo back from suspension.

The game started far from the pace and flair as the first semi-final, with the Dutch enjoying large spells of possession while Argentina captain Javier Mascherano was visibly dissatisfied with his team-mates.

The Dutch got a first small chance in the 13th when Wesley Snijder shot wide left, and a minute later Messi aimed a free-kick from a central position right into the arms of Jasper Cillessen after Ron Vlaar had brought down Perez.

Ezequiel Garay headed high off a corner kick before Argentina had a massive scare when Mascherano hurt his head in an aerial duel with Georginio Wijnaldum. The Barcelona player sunk onto the ground visibly dizzy but could eventually play on.

With Messi contained by De Jong and Vlaar, and Van Persie and Robben also hardly getting the ball, the tactical midfield battle trickled on until half-time with Argentina looking a little more determined.

Janmaat came on for injured Bruno Martins Indi after the break, and went to the right with striker-turned-full-back Dirk Kuyt moving to the left.

That changed nothing as Argentina let the Dutch do the work without giving them the slightest opening for their fast forwards, while Sneijder sent a free-kick hight and wide.

De Jong’s term ended in the 62nd minute when he went off for Feyenoord midfielder Jordy Clasie, the only outfield player Van Gaal had not used from his squad until then.

But no side seemed willing to take any risks, and when another free-kick from Sneijder went miles wide the jeers of the 63,267 grew louder.

Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero returned from injury in the 82nd for Higuain, and Sabella also replaced Perez with Rodrigo Palacio.

Rojo tried his luck from long range in what was only the second shot on target of the entire night.

Robben almost stole a last-gasp winner after a through ball, but Mascherano managed to block the shot with a full-stretch lunge as the game went into extra time.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who grabbed the injury-time 2-1 winner against Mexico in the last 16, came on in the 96th for Van Persie, meaning that Van Gaal could not bring in reserve keeper Tim Krul for possible shoot-out as he had done in the quarter-final with Costa Rica.

Palacio had two late chances before the dull game was decided by penalties.

Semi Finals 1: Germany Crushed Barazil by 7-1

Like impostors who begin believing their own lies, the Selecao of 2014 too sauntered into the semifinal against Germany here telling themselves they were a team that stood a chance of getting within touching distance of a sixth World Cup title. They forgot that it would not be Germany — the world’s top ranked team — but their own sickening ineptitude at this level that would so cruelly expose them.

If it was a carnage, a massacre, an annihilation and all the death-inducing adjectives that the composed and prepared Europeans inflicted on them, it must be pointed out that it was Brazil who had ordered the firing squad themselves and provided for the ammunition. Germany scored seven goals in a single game here. In South Africa, Spain won the World Cup with the just one more — eight goals. A late Oscar goal brought some late cheer but angry and shocked tears flowed freely at the Estadio Minerao.

In Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, Ronaldo just lost his goal-scoring record to Miroslav Klose, but Brazil lost more than a football match. It lost face, which recovering would take a good half-century or more. Until the next Maracanazo would come along, the Minerazo would stand, for unfortunately this Brazil side under the sweet-talking, ever-sure Luis Felipe Scolari – who had claimed that he had not even a drop of doubt for this defence of his – could not hold up to even the poorest teams that Brazil had sent out to in previous World Cups, 1974 and 1978. And like the 1950 reverse, the scars of this debacle will take very, very long to heal.

Before this, the most Brazil had allowed at home was five goals, and that was 75 years ago. That was in 1939 when they were beaten 5-0 by Argentina – the rivals the whole nation had desired to meet in the July 13 final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Now, Brazil will not make the trip to Maracana, which they had arrogantly kept aside for the final visit. Back in 1939, those were the formative days. Friday’s debacle not only showed up the chasm between the two sides, it also showed up the abject difference in class between even this one and other bad Brazil sides of the past.

One is not sure what was more humiliating for the Brazilians – the first-half’s 18-minute spell that produced four goals past them or that the Germans pulled their feet off the pedal and decided to spare Scolari’s side further agony and score any more, playing at half-speed in the second half. Even then, the abject cluelessness of Brazil’s defence forced them to score two more.

It has often been said that the world football had turned a corner with last year’s Confederations Cup when Brazil hammered a mentally fatigued Spain side and that it was to set the template for the future, especially the World Cup. Everyone invoked the effect of 2013 to suggest what was in store with a young, hungry Brazil raring to get off the blocks. Scolari arrogantly even announced his squad weeks before the deadline, claiming that he had seen at the Confederations what he had need to see, and now there was no looking back. While it is true that Spain never recovered from their Brazilian experience of 2013, it also showed up that Brazil were never ready. All they had believed had been a mirage.

This was not even about the Neymar effect. The talismanic Brazilian’s injury that put him out of the World Cup was milked to the maximum by a squad and his manager who used it well to divert the attention from the real flaws. The theatre for the missing Neymar bordered on the absurd – stand in skipper David Luiz holding aloft a No. 10 jersey just before the National anthem was played. The expelled Thiago Silva still making an appearance during warm-up wearing a Forca Neymar cap – it was as if the semifinal was hijacked by the absence of one man, and his not being there would lift the team to great heights. But that was never going to happen, Neymar had been the jet engine fuel for this side, but without him, that the holes would so glaringly show up could never be imagined.

Semi Finals: Predictions and Preview

Latin Post.com takes a look at the schedule and games for the quarterfinals, which start Tuesday:

Brazil Vs.  Germany

Brazil 

The host nation is trying to raise their sixth World Cup Championship, extending their own record. Unfortunately, this will be by far their hardest task yet.

The most obvious reason being because of the injury to superstar scorer Neymar, who led the squad with four goals. To make things even harder, Brazil’s team captain Thiago Silva is suspended for the game. Regardless of the injury and suspension, Brazil has one of the best coaches in Luiz Scolari and he will make the proper adjustments.

Germany

Germany is seeking revenge for their Finals loss against Brazil in 2002. This squad knows they won’t have a better opportunity to defeat the Brazilians, giving the circumstances of their opponents’ status. Germany’s leading goal scorer this tournament has been Thomas Müller, with four goals. Also, keep an eye on Miroslav Klose, who is just one goal away from passing Ronaldo as the all-time leading scorer in World Cup history.

Predictions

Germany certainly has the odds makers changing their minds after the vertebra injury to Neymar, and their defense and middle field is among the best. But Brazil will overcome and adapt with David Luiz leading the way. Brazil wins 2-1.

Argentina Vs. Netherlands

Netherlands

The Netherlands came in ranked No. 15 in the world by FIFA, and that fueled this team. The Dutch appeared in the last World Cup Finals in 2010, where they lost to Spain. This team is still on a mission to win their first-ever World Cup title, as they are 0-3 in the big game. The Netherlands have one of the best offensive teams in this year’s World Cup. This will be the fifth time these two great soccer countries face off in the World Cup. The biggest one came in the 1978 Finals, when Argentina won 3-1 as the host nation.

Argentina

Argentina is trying to win their third World Cup title, and Lionel Messi has been the main reason for why they have a chance. Aside from Messi’s team-leading four goals, he’s made precision passes. The biggest issue for Argentina will be whether or not they can stop this high-scoring Netherlands offense. Argentina wasn’t as heavily tested as the Netherlands, as they were playing in a weak Group F, but that appeared to have no effect on them as they defeated Switzerland and Belgium in the knockout stages by allowing zero goals in both games combined. Another positive for Argentina: other players have been stepping up with defenses keying in on Messi, and this is the best country in the tournament when it comes to time of possession.

Prediction

This game should go down to the wire. Two great nations fighting off for a chance to play in the finals. Lionel Messi will show why he’s a superstar, and the Argentina ball possession factor will be the key contributors. Argentina wins in extra time 3-2.

Quarter Match 4: Super-sub keeper puts Netherlanders in World Cup semis

netherlands vs costa rica

Netherlands’ goalkeeper Tim Krul saves a penalty during the penalty shoot-out of the quarterfinal match against Costa Rica

After a goalless 120 minutes, goalkeeper Tim Krul came on at the end of extra time and saved from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to win the quarterfinal for the Dutch.

Substitute goalkeeper Tim Krul saved two penalties in a dramatic shoot-out on Saturday as the Netherlands edged Costa Rica 4-3 to reach the World Cup semifinals.

After a goalless 120 minutes, the towering Newcastle United custodian came on at the end of extra time and he saved from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to win the quarterfinal for the Dutch.

It was another masterstroke from Manchester United-bound coach Louis van Gaal, who despite his ingenuity was unable to engineer a breakthrough in normal and extra time.

Costa Rica rarely threatened and appeared content to play for penalties, their strong suit after goalkeeper Keylor Navas kept out Greece in a shoot-out in the last 16.

But their bluff was called and after Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt all buried their kicks, the outstretched Krul denied Umana to seal the win.

The thrilling shoot-out came after a match in which goalkeeping also featured strongly when the Dutch hit the woodwork three times and were repeatedly denied by Navas.

Their first chance came when Kuyt squared it to Memphis Depay, who found Van Persie in the area but had his close-range shot well blocked by Navas.

The goalkeeper then spared Ruiz’s blushes, after his captain gave the ball away on the halfway line, when he stopped smartly from Depay.

Robben’s frank admission to diving dominated the build-up but Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmanov had no delay in awarding free-kicks when he went down twice in quick succession.

And Sneijder nearly buried the second when he curled it past the wall, only for his goal-bound shot to be denied by Navas’s fabulous flying, one-handed save.

The Levante ‘keeper was again on his toes when he came out quickly to dive on Robben’s through-ball just ahead of the on-rushing Van Persie.

The Netherlands were starting to carve Costa Rica open but despite 63 percent of possession in the opening half, they went into the break goalless.

Costa Rica hadn’t had a shot on target but they had a chance on the hour when Junior Diaz surged and found Campbell, who went sprawling but had his penalty claim denied.

Costa Rica withdrew Campbell for Marcos Urena, and they were forced into another change when midfielder Cristian Gamboa was stretchered off and replaced by Dave Myrie.

Dutch coach Van Gaal threw on Jeremain Lens for Depay in a bid to avoid extra time, and Sneijder nearly broke the deadlock when he hammered a free-kick against the near post.

Navas again denied Van Persie from close range, and with two minutes remaining the sharpshooter appeared to have it won when Sneijder floated a ball over the defence.

But Van Persie, scorer of a magnificent diving header in the Dutch win against Spain, embarrassingly swung and missed with his favoured left foot with the goal at his mercy.

In injury time, the Dutch appeared cursed as Daley Blind’s ball ran across the face, missing a forest of outstretched legs, and Van Persie’s shot was deflected onto the bar.

Extra-time began for the sixth time this World Cup and Navas rescued Costa Rica again when he turned away Ron Vlaar’s header before needing treatment after a clash with Kuyt.

After they changed ends for the final time, Robben painfully clashed heads with Johnny Acosta and substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was booked for colliding with Navas.

With penalties looming, Urena threatened to snatch it for Costa Rica when he broke clear, but he was denied by goalkeeper Jan Cillessen.

And almost immediately at the other end, Sneijder hit the woodwork for the second time when he smashed a curling shot off the crossbar.

Van Gaal withdrew Cillessen for the 1.93m (six feet three inches) Krul exactly on 120 minutes for the penalties.

And his judgement looked impeccable when Krul saved Costa Rica’s second kick, struck by Ruiz, and then palmed away Umana’s low and one-handed before racing away in triumph.

Quarter Match 3: Higuain fires Argentina into World Cup semis

argentina va belguim

Argentina’s forward Gonzalo Higuain shoots to score during a quarter-final football match between Argentina and Belgium

Gonzalo Higuain struck in the eighth minute to send Argentina into the last four for the first time since 1990 and thwart Belgian hopes of avenging their defeat in the 1986 semifinals.

Gonzalo Higuain smashed home an early goal as Argentina dashed the World Cup dreams of much-fancied Belgium with a 1-0 win in the quarterfinals here on Saturday.

Higuain struck in the eighth minute at the Mane Garrincha National Stadium to send Argentina into the last four for the first time since 1990 and thwart Belgian hopes of avenging their defeat in the 1986 semifinals.

The only black mark for Argentina was an injury to influential midfielder Angel di Maria that forced him off in the first half and may yet deny him a chance to play in the semifinal.

Hours after Neymar was ruled out of the tournament due to injury and James Rodriguez was eliminated with Colombia, Lionel Messi gave further evidence to suggest the World Cup may yet belong to him.

He illuminated Argentina’s play with his trickery and incisive passing and although he failed to score, Higuain’s goal was enough to see off Belgium’s ‘golden generation,’ for whom the occasion proved a step too far.

A symbol of Belgium’s travails, star player Eden Hazard was booked for a crude challenge on Lucas Biglia and then replaced by Nacer Chadli with 15 minutes remaining.

Three changes

Showing three changes to the team that had laboured to beat Switzerland in the last 16 — Jose Maria Basanta, Martin Demichelis and Biglia coming in — Argentina was quick to put Belgium on the back foot.

Messi was at the forefront, freeing Ezequiel Lavezzi for a low cross that Vincent Kompany hacked clear and then playing a central role in Argentina’s opener with a pirouette and pass to di Maria.

di Maria’s subsequent pass was intended for the overlapping Pablo Zabaleta, but it flicked off Jan Vertonghen’s right foot and into the path of Higuain, who lashed in his first goal of the tournament.

Messi then produced a cleverly weighted pass to di Maria, who shifted the ball onto his left foot, only for Kompany to block.

Though seemingly anodyne, it was a moment that could have lasting repercussions for Argentina.

di Maria injured himself while shooting and had to trudge off in the 33rd minute, with Benfica’s Enzo Perez coming on.

Inhibited

Belgium seemed slightly inhibited, but after Kevin de Bruyne saw a 25-yard shot boxed away by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero, Kevin Mirallas headed narrowly wide from a Vertonghen cross.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots pushed Marouane Fellaini further forward in the second half, but Argentina continued to threaten.

Higuain twice came close to claiming a second goal, first seeing a shot deflected wide by Daniel van Buyten and then neatly nutmegging Kompany, only for his shot to clip the bar.

Wilmots reacted by introducing Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens, before hooking the ineffective Hazard.

Belgium began to apply pressure, with Fellaini heading a Vertonghen cross over the bar and de Bruyne having a shot deflected wide.

Messi should have made it 2-0 on the counter-attack in stoppage time, only for Thibaut Courtois to rush out and save, but Argentina held on nonetheless to join Germany and eternal rival Brazil in the last four.

Quarter Match 2 : Brazil seal World Cup semi-final spot by beating Colombia

q1Thiago Silva and David Luiz score for Brazil, Neymar carried off; James Rodriguez late goal fails to save Colombia.

David Silva’s screaming free kick gave Brazil a 2-1 win over Colombia on Friday to seal a World Cup semi-final place but the favourites saw Neymar stretchered off and captain Thiago Silva suspended for the next clash.

Silva bundled over a Neymar corner kick in the seventh minute to put his country ahead.q11

But he earned his second yellow card of the tournament in the second half for barging into Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina and will misss the semi-final against Germany next Tuesday.

Luiz stepped up to smash an unstoppable 30 metre free kick past Ospina in the 78th minute. But Neymar was carried off in agony late in the game after a rough challenge from Colombia defender Juan Camillo Zuniga.