Saturday, 5 July 2014

WC 2014 QUARTER-FINAL: Argentina vs Belgium, LIVE COMMENTARY:

Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have a LIVE Commentary of another quarter-final in this year's 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Brazil set up an eagerly-anticipated semi-final fixture with Germany after they scraped through against Colombia with a 2-1 victory late on last night, but they will be out golden boy Neymar after he broke his vertebra during the latter stages of the match.
Ouch: Neymar on the receiving end of a high knee by full-back Zuniga in the second-half
Disaster blow: Neymar was stretchered off, and consequently rushed to hospital for a scan
Meanwhile the Germans were comfortable (albeit until the last few minutes I must add) against a lacklustre French side who left it too late to challenge the Germans.

Today sees the last two quarter-final matches being played; Argentina vs Belgium before Holland vs Costa Rica.

Here are the team line-ups for the early afternoon kick-off in Brasilla:

Argentina: Romero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Basanta, Biglia, Mascherano, Lavezzi, Messi, Di Maria and Higuain.

Subs: Orion, Campagnaro, Gago, Perez, Maxi Rodriguez, Augusto Fernandez, Federico Fernandez, Palacio, Alvarez, Aguero and Andujar.

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen, Fellaini, Witsel, Mirallas, De Bruyne, Hazard, Origi.

Subs: Mignolet, Vermaelen, Lukaku, Mertens, Defour, Lombaerts, Dembele, Januzaj, Chadli, Ciman, Bossut.

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (from Italy)

17:00 - And the referee has blown his whistle to kick start the first quarter-final of the match.

5: So far nothing really to report, but Argentina have been dominating in terms of possession and passing-wise.

6: Belgium's defence isn't exactly the strongest, can they cope with the likes of Messi, Di Maria and Higuain today? 

7: GOAL! Argentina break the deadlock! No they can't. 

Two defensive mistakes are consequently taken advantage of and the Argentines open the scoring thanks to a fierce low drive by Higuain, drilled into the bottom corner of the net out of Courtois' reach. 

Clinical: Higuain breaks the deadlock with a fierce drive
8: Manchester City centre-back and captain Vincent Kompany loses the ball near the centre circle and Messi is able to weave past two markers and feed through a pass to Di Maria;

He attempts to pass to Higuain, a lucky deflection sees the ball fly into the Napoli striker's path and he connects with a well-struck finish. Courtois couldn't do anything there.

10: And now it's time to see how Belgium react after this minor setback.

20: It's safe to say that Belgium have reacted positively to going a goal down, but they are still trailing thanks to Higuain's strike.

22: Origi and Hazard are looking dangerous in the Belgium half but they need the ball.

28: The match temporarily halts as the physio rushes onto the field of play to treat Real Madrid forward Angel Di Maria, who looks to have pulled his hamstring or his thigh after shaping to shoot - and having an effort on-goal blocked by an oncoming Belgian defender.

30: Di Maria walks back onto the pitch, but he is limping uncomfortably and he might be unable to continue today.

Too much to bear: Di Maria limps off the pitch with a thigh injury
32: Argentina SUB -
Angel Di Maria (injury) OFF 
Enzo Perez ON

33: Di Maria is replaced by Perez, and Argentina will miss his presence today - his pace, his close-control dribbling and his ability to create havoc for the defenders. 

Even though they are 1-0 up, it is a shame no doubt.

35: Cameras show that Di Maria has strapping wrapped around his knee, hopefully he is okay and able to play the semi-final IF Argentina do get there. We've seen too many tournament-ending injuries in the past few weeks. 

38: Sloppy defending by Belgium invites the approaching run of Messi, who gets past three defenders on the edge of the area before being bundled over by Vertonghen and Kompany. 

Belgium protest their innocence, but the referee blows his whistle for a free-kick.

39: Messi set to take the free-kick, 20 yards out. Belgium wall with 8 players, and he shoots..... Oooo! His shot powerfully swerves just over the bar, a let of for the Belgians.

40: Belgium goal-kick, to be taken by Courtois.

41: Good firm clearance by Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay to acrobatically clear the danger as Hazard lurks on the edge of the area - before an inviting cross into the box almost results in an equaliser as Mirallas goes close with a diving header towards Romero's right - but the effort fizzes wide and hits the advertising board.

42: Belgium do look good on the counter attack, and Argentina need to stay firm if they are to make sure that they do not concede.

42: The game is still in the balance, as Messi gets ready to take a corner, and Argentina's first of the match so far. 

43: Messi's whipped corner to the near post is headed away by the face of Witsel as Belgium clear away partially - the Zenit midfielder clutches his face in pain momentarily as he tries to gather himself after being hit in the face by the ball.

45: The fourth official has signalled for 2 minutes of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the first-half, with Argentina currently leading. 

45+2: The referee blows the whistle to signal the end of the first-half, and Argentina have the lead albeit a slender one going into the break.

Higuain with his first goal in over 500 minutes for Argentina, but Belgium still have a chance to get back into the match - they just need to take their chances. 

18:03 - The second-half has begun, no substitutions for either side at the break. 

52: First yellow card of the game goes to Chelsea winger Eden Hazard for a nasty-looking lunge on midfielder Lucas Biglia.

54: CHANCE! Belgium's defence is left on the ropes with an attacking break from the Argentinians; Higuain goes on the run and strikes towards goal, his effort bounces off the crossbar and out for a goal-kick.

55: Belgium's defence has not looked very solid under pressure, and they have been let off there. Especially Kompany, who was nutmegged and beaten too easily by Higuain, who I would not exactly fancy in a race between the two. 

57: Good last-gasp sliding challenge on the edge of the area by Kompany to read the impending danger and block the PSG winger's movements.

59: Belgium SUB - 
Kevin Mirallas OFF
Divock Origi OFF
Dries Mertens ON
Romelu Lukaku ON

60: 30 minutes for Belgium to get back in the game; and it is Argentina who look the more likely to get another goal in the match at the moment, they need for that to change. 

61: CHANCE! Fellaini with a looping header inside the area, the headed effort flies over Romero's head and luckily for Argentina also over the bar.

65: The clock continues to tick down, and Belgium need to find a goal soon.

67: Yellow card for defender Toby Alderweireld after a rash and late challenge, lunging in on Biglia near the centre circle. 

68: That booking means that Alderweireld will miss Belgium's next match, if indeed the Belgians progress to the semis.

70: Argentina SUB - 
Ezequiel Lavezzi OFF
Rodrigo Palacio ON

71: A like-for-like substitution for Argentina, Palacio replaces Lavezzi for the last 20 minutes or so. Lavezzi has worked hard on the flank and looks slightly jaded - good decision by the manager there.  

73: FACT - Belgium have not scored any goals in this World Cup in the opening 70 minutes of a match. So I guess it's time for them to score now then? 

74: Cynical foul by Biglia who barges into defender Jan Vertonghen on the attacking charge - he gets a yellow card for his troubles.

75: Belgium SUB - 
Eden Hazard OFF
Nacer Chadli ON

80: Argentina SUB - 
Gonzalo Higuain OFF
Fernando Gago ON

81: 10 minutes left of normal time, and Argentina get forward but their potential counter attack is held back by the sliding challenge from Alderweireld.

83: Fellaini has a half-chance..... the linesman on the far side puts up his flag for offside. 

84: De Bruyne sets up for a corner-kick delivery, but the cross goes to waste with another offside call. Both Fellaini and Lukaku were standing offside when the ball was played.

85: Frustration on the faces of the Belgian players, they know that they do not have any time to waste and they will not get many more clear-cut chances.

87: Argentina goal-kick to be taken, as Romero helps one of his team-mates who is struggling with cramp in the area.

88: Belgium are throwing everything they can into the Argentina half, which is typical for a side with nothing to lose - just a few minutes plus stoppages to play and Argentina are desperate to clear.

89: Accidental team-mate collision halts play, as Perez collides with Zabaleta while both running towards the ball. 

90: The fourth official signals for 5 minutes of stoppage time to be added on at the end of the match.

90+1: Desperation etched on the faces of both sets of players, especially the Belgians.

They know they have not been at their best again today and they are on the verge of crashing out at the quarter-final stage unless they can conjure up some late magic now.

90+3: GOOD SAVE FROM COURTOIS! Belgium so close to being killed off, a great counter attacking move finds Messi one-on-one with Courtois in the area, he attempts a cheeky toe-poke strike past the Chelsea goalkeeper but he does well to parry away and Belgium are let off.

90+4: And that was arguably their last chance of the game. Lukaku gallops up the pitch with the ball on the edge of the area.

He looks for a man in the middle but he couldn't find any team-mates in space and his attempted cross is partially cleared to Witsel - he has an ambitious effort on goal and... over the bar!

90+5: The referee blows the whistle for full-time!

Argentina 1 Belgium 0 
It's one of those games, Argentina never really looked under any pressure at the back and took their chance when it came. Belgium will be wishing they tried just that bit harder, in the end they left it too late again and you just can't do that against a team of Argentina's calibre.

Higuain's 8th minute drive past Courtois sends the South Americans into the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990, where they will either play against Holland or Costa Rica for a chance to go all the way into the final.

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