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Belgium bounces Brazil
Belgium vs Brazil
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne, center, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the quarterfinal match between Brazil and Belgium, Friday, in Kazan, Russia, Friday. - photo by ASSCOCIATED PRESS

KAZAN, Russia — Neymar used Brazil's famed yellow jersey to shield his anguish. The Belgians, clad in red and dancing in a celebratory circle nearby, couldn't hide their relief.

Belgium reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 32 years, holding off five-time champion Brazil 2-1 Friday in one of the country's greatest soccer feats.

"We've achieved something that is really beautiful," said Kevin De Bruyne, who scored Belgium's second goal, "and it's not easy."

Belgium eliminated Brazil by successfully fusing the attacking potency of De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku with the creativity of Eden Hazard and the goalkeeping exploits of Thibaut Courtois. Plus an own-goal from Brazil.

It all adds up to a semifinal match against France on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.

"Just treasure it and pass it down in the generations," Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said, still seemingly in awe of what his team achieved at the Kazan Arena.

Belgium took the lead after a slice of good fortune involving a pair of Manchester City teammates who were on opposing sides. Brazil midfielder Fernandinho's trailing right arm inadvertently helped Belgium captain Vincent Kompany's header land in his own net in the 13th minute.

De Bruyne then completed a counterattack launched by Lukaku to double the lead in the 31st minute.

As Belgium lost cohesiveness in the second half and Brazil's changes stirred the team, substitute Renato Augusto reduced the deficit in the 76th with a header. But it was too late for Brazil to muster an equalizer as Courtois thwarted several efforts to force the game into extra time.

While Belgium's golden generation is finally flourishing, Neymar is leading Brazil home after failing to live up to the expectations that come with being soccer's most expensive player. Crouching on the field, he pulled his shirt over his face while Belgium exalted in victory.

Humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semifinals fours year ago on home soil with Neymar out injured, Brazil didn't even get that far this time. Just like defending champion Germany and Argentina before them, the Kazan Arena is where Brazil's World Cup challenge ended.

"Randomness happened and it was cruel to us," Brazil coach Tite said. "It was hard to swallow."

Especially after Brazil conceded only one goal in the previous four games in Russia. But the defense was breached after 13 minutes in Tatarstan. Fernandinho's own-goal ensured for the first time since March 2017 that Brazil was trailing in a competitive match. Unlike then — an eventual 4-1 victory over Uruguay — there was no comeback.

Not when Courtois was proving to be an impenetrable barrier in the Belgium goal, denying Marcelo's strike before the lead was extended by De Bruyne.

"They were more effective," Tite said, struggling to hold back tears. "Not a superiority in terms of performance, but in terms of effectiveness on the pitch."

Belgium held on even after Philippe Coutinho's cross was headed in by Augusto, who managed to evade Kompany and Jan Vertonghen three minutes after replacing Paulinho.

"Sometimes you have to accept that Brazil has got this finesse, that quality, and that they're going to break you down, and (Belgium) just refused to accept that," Martinez said. "This is something special."

Belgium, which finished fourth at the 1986 tournament and has never won the European Championship, is now on a 24-match unbeaten streak.


Uruguay 0, France 2


NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia — A shot that flew directly at the hands of the opposing goalkeeper turned into a World Cup goal for Antoine Griezmann.

The France striker scored the second goal in his team's 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Uruguay on Friday, sending a seemingly easy-to-save shot at a waiting Fernando Muslera. But the ball hit the keeper on the palms, bounced off and looped over his head and into the net.

The victory gave France a spot in the World Cup semifinals. The 1998 champions will next face Belgium on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.

Griezmann didn't celebrate what was his third goal of the tournament.

"I was playing against a lot of friends," said Griezmann, who is teammates with Uruguay defenders Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez at Atletico Madrid, "so I think it was normal not to celebrate."

Raphael Varane gave France the lead with a header in the 40th minute. Griezmann sent in a free kick from the right side and Varane raced across the area. He got his head to the ball and sent it into the far corner behind Muslera.

Griezmann scored his goal, which was similar to the one scored by Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale against Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius in the Champions League final, in the 61st minute.

"We all saw that it was not a very common goal, but Muslera has been a very important pillar for all this process and through all our work on our way up to here, so I'm not going to wash my hands putting any responsibility on my players," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. "This is the kind of thing that I will discuss with the players in the locker room."

Griezmann is a Frenchman who plays professionally in Spain, but he has a special fondness for Uruguay. He likes the traditional South American drink mate, he speaks Spanish like someone from the South American country and he's been pictured wearing the team's jersey.

Godin, who was playing for Uruguay on Friday, is also the godfather of Griezmann's daughter.

"I love Uruguayan culture and I love Uruguayans, so I have a lot of respect for them," Griezmann said.

France went on to reach the World Cup final the last two times it advanced to the semifinals. They won their only World Cup in 1998 on home soil, and in 2006 lost to Italy on penalties.

The match at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium pitted France's speed against Uruguay's stubborn defense and its occasional attacking threats. But with Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani injured and on the bench and Luis Suarez neutralized, it was France that scored the goals.

Suarez, who scored two goals in the group stage, didn't get a single touch on the ball in France's penalty area for the entire match. Cavani scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Portugal in the round of 16, but he sat on the bench with an injured left calf he picked up in that match.

Four minutes after Varane gave France the lead, Uruguay nearly equalized. France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris dived to his right and got a hand on a header from Martin Caceres, pushing it just wide of the goal.

"Lloris had a great save," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "Apart from that, they didn't have many great opportunities."


MBAPPE'S CHANCES


Although he didn't score, 19-year-old France forward Kylian Mbappe again looked dangerous on the attack, trying to slice in from the right wing or directing quick passes into Uruguay's defense.


Mbappe, who has modeled his game after Cristiano Ronaldo and is being compared to Zinedine Zidane, also picked up a second-half yellow card for falling to the ground as if in agony after a touch from an opponent.


Mbappe scored twice against Argentina to become the first teenager with multiple goals in a World Cup knockout game since a 17-year-old Pele in 1958.


NO LONGER UNBEATEN


Heading into the match, Uruguay had been unbeaten in 2018 and Muslera had the best save percentage of any goalkeeper at the tournament who had played more than one match. He had 11 saves and had allowed only one goal in four World Cup matches in Russia.


A country of only 3.5 million, Uruguay won World Cup titles in 1930 and 1950 and then waned. But it has undergone a revival in the last 12 years under the 71-year-old Tabarez, a former elementary school teacher.


The country was trying to reach the semifinals for the second time in the last three World Cups.


"It seems that the four games we won before this one are worth nothing, but that's not true," Tabarez said. "Today we played against opponents that were stronger than we were."