Argentina got an early goal by Gonzalo Higuain on an unlucky bounce for Belgium and that’s all it took to send the Red Devils home on Saturday. One goal is all Albiceleste would need as they stayed back and survived the late Belgian attack winning 1-0 and advancing to the Semifinals.

Argentina got on the scoreboard first in the 8th minute off of a broken play. Argentina won the ball at midfield and got it quickly to Messi. Messi led the charge down the pitch right outside the box where he passed it to Angel Di Maria. Di Maria tried to send a cross into the box, but it was deflected by Belgium and landed right in front of Gonzalo Higuain who spun and shot it off the bounce into the left side of the net.

The goal was a bad break for Belgium as the deflection went right to Higuain. Belgian goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois was kneeling at the time of the shot and unable to make the save, I think he was just as surprised as everyone when the deflection went right to Higuain. The goal was Higuain’s first goal for the Argentina National Team in over a year and exactly the help that Messi needed.

In an unlucky turn of events for Argentina, Lionel Messi’s right hand man, and the hero against Switzerland, Angel Di Maria was injured on a challenge by Belgian captain, Vincent Kompany in the 30th minute. He walked it off for a few minutes, but was unable to continue and was substituted in the 32nd minute for Enzo Perez.

Angel Di Maria Argentina's Angel Di Maria lies on the pitch after injuring himself in the match against Belgium Reuters

The loss of Di Maria meant Argentina would continue on in the match for another hour without two starting midfielders that were crucial to Albiceleste’s success: Di Maria and Sergio Aguero.

Belgium’s struggling star, Eden Hazard continued to be shackled by defenders for the fifth straight match as he turned the ball over at least three times in the first half.

Belgium made the substitution that was so vital against the United States in extra time, a half hour early when they substituted Origi for Romelu Lukaku in the 60th minute.

In an attempt to see if lighting would strike twice, or in this case, five times, Wilmots substituted Dries Mertens for Kevin Mirallas just minutes later. A substitute has scored for Belgium in each of their four World Cup games.

The ineffective Eden Hazard was substituted in the 76th minute for Nacer Chadli. It was not a good World Cup for Hazard.

Belgium had a handful of opportunities late in the match, but nothing like the opportunities and chances they created against the United States.

The Argentine defense which had been shaky at times was at its best on Saturday, especially down the stretch, turning Belgium away as they attacked quickly and consistently down the stretch.

On the individual battle between Lionel Messi and archrival, Thibaut Courtois, Messi had a one on one opportunity late, but Courtois thwarted “The flea” again with a great save. Although Courtois won the individual battle by keeping Messi scoreless for the ninth consecutive time, Messi and Argentina won the war as they advance and are one step closer to hoisting the cup.

Belgium will go home with their heads high as they gave it everything they had and made it to the quarterfinals for just the second time in their history. Their team is young and in four years will be more experienced and if they can stay together, should be seen as a favorite in Russia.

The win for Argentina sends them on to the semifinals to play either the Netherlands or Costa Rica in Sao Paolo on Wednesday.

Game Notes:
Argentina has now won four out of five matches against Belgium. Gonzalo Higuain went 528 minutes on the pitch before scoring a goal for Argentina. There were only three total shots on target in the match, one of them being Higuain’s goal.