Photo: Lionel Messi
Gonzalo Higuain’s first goal of the 2014 World Cup was the margin of victory here Saturday as Argentina beat Belgium 1-0 in their quarterfinal match.
The Argentines will be returning to the semifinals for the first time since 1990, when the South American team ended up losing in the final to Germany.
Saturday’s contest in Brasilia was wide open from the start and Argentine superstriker Lionel Messi had plenty of room to create offense.
Messi, a four-time world player of the year, was involved in nearly every Argentine attack, including the one that led to the game’s only goal.
After a takeaway in midfield, Messi fed Di Maria, who launched a poor shot, but the rebound landed at Higuain’s feet and he put it past Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make it 1-0 in the 7th minute.
Argentina dominated possession for most of the rest of the first half, though the loss of Angel Di Maria to injury in the 32nd minute cost them some speed.
Argentine keeper Sergio Romero wasn’t troubled until the 41st minute, when Kevin Mirallas’ header on a great pass from Kevin de Bruyn grazed the post.
The second half followed the same script, with Argentina comfortably in control.
Higuain, energized by his early goal, almost doubled the advantage 10 minutes into the half with a brilliant end-to-end rush culminating in a shot that bounced off the crossbar.
The Belgians were lacking in precision and when they did manage to threaten, they came up against an Argentine defense that was much improved from previous games.
Argentina will face the winner of the Netherlands-Costa Rica quarterfinal.
The other semifinal will pit Germany against Brazil, who will be without Neymar - their best offensive player - for the rest of the tournament.