The Norman Transcript

National Sports

July 6, 2014

Argentina tops Belgium to reach semifinal

BRASILIA, Brazil — Gonzalo Higuain’s first goal of this World Cup sent Argentina into the semifinals on Saturday with a 1-0 win over a disappointing Belgium.

Argentina, which hadn’t advanced past the World Cup quarterfinals since 1990, controlled the match after Higuain’s eighth-minute goal, more due to disciplined defending than sparkling attack.

The Napoli striker fired home Angel Di Maria’s deflected pass just inside the area, beating Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a low shot to the far corner of the goal as he turned.

“Since the first game of this World Cup I said I was calm, that the goals would come. It came and at an important moment,” Higuain said. “It’s been so many years since we made it to the semifinals. Now we did.”

Higuain came close to making it 2-0 in the second half when his shot smashed into the crossbar. Lionel Messi missed a chance to score his fifth goal of the tournament when he failed to beat Courtois on a counterattack in stoppage time.

Belgium lacked the creativity to find a way past Argentina’s disciplined defense, and created few clear chances apart from a pair of headers by Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini.

Belgium’s most creative player, Eden Hazard, had little impact on the game beyond receiving a yellow card for a studs-first challenge on Lucas Biglia. Hazard cut a disconsolate figure as he was substituted by Nacer Chadli in the 75th.

Argentina’s next opponent will be the winner of the last quarterfinal between the Netherlands and Costa Rica, who were playing later Saturday in Salvador.

Long after the game, thousands of Argentine fans flocked to one section of the Estadio Nacional to celebrate the team’s best World Cup performance in 24 years.

“They played an excellent match,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said of his team. “After 24 years, we can be among the four best teams in the world. At least we lived up to the minimum objective.”

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