Millennium Post

Belgium's 'golden generation' finally make their mark at WC

Saint Petersburg: Long touted as World Cup contenders thanks to an abundance of talent, Belgium claimed their biggest scalp ever in beating five-time winners Brazil to reach just their second semi-final.

A 'golden generation' featuring Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku exited tamely to Argentina four years ago and blew a huge chance at Euro 2016 when on the kind side of the draw. Now in their prime, this group of players is unlikely to get a better opportunity to win a major international tournament than over the course of the next week, with France to come in the last four on Tuesday.

Here, AFP Sports looks at Belgium's rich resources in every area of the field.

Courtois stands tall

The giant Chelsea stopper needed every inch of his 6 feet 6 inch (1.99 metre) frame to prevent Neymar hauling Brazil into extra-time with a stunning stoppage time save on Friday.

"I know Neymar likes to curl it that way. I was ready and made a good save," said Courtois.

"I have been unfairly criticised a lot this year. Today I proved again who I am and why I am here."

Widely regarded as one of the world's best goalkeepers, Courtois has won two Premier League titles with Chelsea and La Liga while on loan at Atletico Madrid, but his nine-save display against Brazil was one of his best yet on the big international stage.

Lukaku more than a goalscorer

Still in the race for the Golden Boot behind Harry Kane, with Belgium now guaranteed two more matches, Romelu Lukaku has shown another side to his game so far in the knockout phase after scoring four times in the group stages.

His superb run off the ball and dummy in the final seconds against Japan cleared the space for Thomas Meunier to tee up Nacer Chadli's winner.

Against Brazil, again it was Lukaku's link-up play that proved decisive as he powered past Fernandinho and Paulinho on a rapid counter-attack before feeding De Bruyne to smash home from the edge of the area.

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