Higuain fires Argentina past Belgium

22:48, Jul 06 2014
David Luiz
WATCHING HIS WORK: Brazil's David Luiz looks on in hope as his free-kick travels toward the net - it goes in to give the World Cup hosts a 2-1 lead in the quarterfinal against Colombia.
David Luiz
CELEBRATION: Brazil's David Luiz runs excitedly after scoring a stunning goal from a free-kick in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Julio Cesar and Carlos Bacca
TRIPPED UP: Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar was carded for this challenge on Colombia's Carlos Bacca. The ensuing spot kick went in.
Julio Cesar and Carlos Bacca
LOVES THE HULK: A Brazil fan shows his support for star player Hulk.
Julio Cesar and Carlos Bacca
GREAT GOAL: Brazil's Paulinho leaps onto his captain Thiago Silva to celebrate the opening goal of their quarterfinal against Colombia.
Julio Cesar and Carlos Bacca
IT'S IN: Brazil captain Thiago Silva nudges in a loose ball from a Neymar corner to open the scoring in their quarterfinal against Colombia.
Julio Cesar and Carlos Bacca
OUCH: Brazil star Neymar clutches his back after a challenge from Colombia's Camilo Zuniga. He was carried off on a stretcher and taken to hospital.
Mathieu Debuchy
ON THE UP: Mathieu Debuchy heads the ball in France's quarterfinal against Germany.
Mathieu Debuchy
AERIAL TUSSLE: France's Patrice Evra fights for the ball with Germany's Thomas Mueller in the teams' World Cup quarterfinal encounter.
Mathieu Debuchy
MATCH-WINNER: Germany's Mats Hummels celebrates scoring the goal that put his team through to the World Cup semifinals.
Mathieu Debuchy
OUT OF REACH: France's Hugo Lloris was unable to save Mats Hummels strike.
Gonzalo Higuain
Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain celebrates after scoring a goal against Belgium during their quarterfinal.
Argentina v Belgium
Argentina's Lionel Messi takes a free kick during his sides quarterfinal against Belgium.
Gonzalo Higuain goal
Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina fires in the first and only goal in the eighth minute of his sides quarterfinal victory over Belgium.
Argentina v Belgium
Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball against Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium.
Argentina v Belgium
Belgium's Kevin Mirallas heads the ball narrowly wide as Argentina's Jose Basanta and Ezequiel Garay look on.
Argentina v Belgium
Argentina's Rodrigo Palacio watches as Belgium's Dries Mertens makes contact.
Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie of the Netherlands controls the ball during his sides quarterfinal against Costa Rica.
Tim Krul
Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul celebrates after winning their penalty shootout in their quarterfinal against Costa Rica.
Netherlands v Costa Rica
The Netherlands players celebrate after winning the penalty shootout in their quarterfinals against Costa Rica.
Tim Krul
Dutch goalkeeper Tim Krul makes the winning save in the penalty shootout against Costa Rica.
Keylor Navas
Keylor Navas of Costa Rica makes one of many saves against the Netherlands.
Clearance
Costa Rica's Johnny Acosta clears the ball off the line during extra time against the Netherlands.

Gonzalo Higuain's superb early strike secured a nervy 1-0 win for Argentina against Belgium and sent the South Americans through to the last four of the World Cup for the first time in 24 years this morning (NZT).

Higuain buried a shot into the corner of the net in the eighth minute at the national stadium to set up a semi-final clash against 2010 runners-up the Netherlands or surprise package Costa Rica, today's other quarterfinal.

The 26-year-old Higuain reacted brilliantly when an Angel Di Maria pass was deflected towards him off Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen. He swivelled and struck the ball first time as Argentina ended a run of being eliminated in the last eight at the two most recent editions of soccer's global showpiece.

''I knew the goal was going to come and it came at an important time,'' Higuain, who had not scored for his nation in six matches, said in a television interview.

''We were able to reach a semi-final which we haven't achieved for many years. Now we need to play well and try and reach the final,'' he added.

''We gave our all, it's a World Cup, it doesn't happen every day. There are two matches left to achieve this beautiful dream.''

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Belgium, whose best World Cup run was in 1986 when they were knocked out by Diego Maradona's Argentina in the semi-finals, had a couple of chances but otherwise offered little in attack despite sustained late pressure that set nerves among the thousands of Argentines thronging the giant arena jangling.

Argentina looked the more ambitious in the early stages and Higuain's beautifully executed goal gave them a deserved lead.

They came close to a second in the 28th minute when Lionel Messi, who was a constant threat to the Belgium defence having set the tournament alight in the group stages, threaded a superb ball through for a galloping Di Maria.

However, the winger injured himself when his effort was blocked and was replaced by Enzo Perez a few minutes later.

Belgium were starting to enjoy more possession without really threatening before Messi flashed a free kick narrowly wide five minutes before the break.

With Argentina apparently happy to sit on their lead, Belgium's best effort of the half came in the 42nd minute when Kevin Mirallas sent a diving header wide from Vertonghen's centre.

Higuain was in fine form and raced through the centre 10 minutes into the second half but, with Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois beaten, his shot clipped the top of the crossbar and the ball flew into the crowd.

Marouane Fellaini sent a 61st-minute header just over the bar in another good chance for Belgium and there was some desperate defending from the Argentines in the closing minutes.

But they held on and captain Messi could even afford to squander a late one-on-one with Courtois as his side progressed along with hosts Brazil and Germany, who went through on the other side of the draw.

''It's a great joy for this squad, for the technical staff, for the people, for my family. We all crossed the Rubicon!,'' said Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, adding that it was probably his team's finest performance so far in Brazil.

 

 

Reuters