Brasilia, Brazil (4E Sports) – Gonzalo Higuain’s early strike lifted Argentina to a 1-0 win over Belgium and into the semifinals of the World Cup Saturday.
Higuain handed Argentina the early lead with a well-struck shot in the eighth minute after a deflected pass from Angel Di Maria.
Then, Argentina’s defense made the goal hold up with an organized display that limited Belgium’s chances and gave goalkeeper Sergio Romero a fairly easy afternoon between the posts.
The win moved Argentina into the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, where the team will face either the Netherlands or Costa Rica Wednesday.
“We’ve achieved our minimum objective, which was to reach the last four, but we want more. That’s what we’ve come for,” Argentina head coach Alejandro Sabella said.
The win was a good sign for the Argentines, who beat Belgium in the semifinals in 1986 in the last meeting between the two sides then went on to be crowned world champions.
Argentina got off to a quick start with the opening goal arriving after just eight minutes as Di Maria’s pass was deflected by a Belgium defender. However, the ball landed in front of Higuain, who hammered a perfect shot inside the left post.
The Belgians tried to respond in the 26th minute when Kevin De Bruyne lashed a powerful shot on target from 25 yards but it was cleared by Romero.
Sabella was forced to make a substitution in the 33rd minute when Di Maria went down with a thigh injury and was replaced by Enzo Perez in the midfield.
Lionel Messi had a good chance in the 39th when he was tripped at the top of the box but drove his free kick just past the top corner of the net.
Higuain almost doubled Argentina’s lead in the 55th when he sliced through the middle of the Belgium defense and drove a shot past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois that hit the top of the crossbar.
Messi was denied by Courtois in stoppage time in a one-on-one situation that could have put the match away.
Belgium had another shot at tying the game but Axel Witsel’s half-volley from the edge of the penalty area missed its target.