Roberto Martinez showed how far inspired coaching can take a team when he masterminded Belgium’s World Cup quarter final victory over Brazil.
An own goal by Fernandinho and a brilliant strike from Kevin de Bruyne propelled the Red Devils to a semifinal date with France who earlier conquered Uruguay 2-0.
Brazil pulled one back with just under 15 minutes to play through sustitute Renato Augusto but that is the best Tite’s side could do on a night that they were out classed by some of the best European players of this generation.
Five years after guiding unfancied Wigan Athletic to an FA Cup final victory over Manchester City, Martinez created a tactical straight jacket that left five time champions Brazil with little room for manoeuvre.
The Spaniard’s biggest and best call was to drop Dries Martens and Yannick Carrasco for Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli, both of whom had contributed game changing cameos in the 3-2 win over Japan.
Chadli and especially Fellaini gave Belgium solidity in the centre while simultaneously freeing Kevin de Bruyne to lead their counterattacks.
The Manchester City assist king took full advantage of Samba Boys midfield enforcer Casemiro’s absence to wreak havoc in an advanced role.
Clearly unprepared by the pace and power of De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku who bossed Brazilian centre backs Miranda and Thiago Silva, Tite’s five time winners often found themselves losing their shape.
To some extent, Brazil were their own worst enemies, repeatedly developing cold feet when converting looked almost certain.
Though in making repeated saves Belgium’s giant keeper Thibaut Courtois surpassed anything Jean Marie Pfaff ever did for the Red Devils on their march to Mexico ’86’s semifinals, several Brazilians left their shooting boots home.