RTÉ soccer analyst Didi Hamann admits that he was surprised by how well Belgium performed in their World Cup quarter-final victory over Brazil and admits that they answered a lot of questions with their 2-1 victory.
A Fernandinho own goal and a fierce strike from Kevin De Bruyne put Roberto Martinez's side in early control of a compelling encounter.
Brazil responded after the break and pulled one back through substitute Renato Augusto 14 minutes from time but Belgium withstood considerable pressure to hold on.
However it was the manner of the first-half performance from the Belgians and the way they set themselves up that caught the eye and proved to be the difference between the sides.
Manager Roberto Martinez found the solution to fitting De Bruyne and Eden Hazard on the same team by moving Romelu Lukaku out onto the wing, a roll he excelled it, as Belgium committed three men to attack and at times left themselves short in defence.
Hamann had questioned Belgium’s performances in the World Cup before now and pre-match he predicted that they’d suffer a defeat to Brazil, but was full of praise for Martinez and his approach afterwards.
"You’ve got to give it to him for coming up with a plan like that," he said. "It takes some bravery to do that, to defend with six and a half or seven players against Brazil and the defenders just stood up.
"The front three done magnificently. If you defend three against three against these guys with De Bruyne and Hazard, they’ve got the pace of Hazard, you’ve got the physicality of Lukaku and then you’ve got De Bruyne there, it’s always hard to defend.
"A special mention to [Alex] Witsel and [Marouane] Fellaini, I think the way they shielded the back three was magnificent because they always defended with equal men or maybe one done.
"The way they never allowed them shots from outside the box, the way they closed them down, the way they nicked balls when they started the game again was absolutely outstanding."
Hamann reserved most of the praise for Martinez and the courage he showed in taking the game to Brazil in the first half.
"It was very brave from the manager, the players bought into it and I think they showed a side today that I always questioned - their togetherness.
"In the last ten minutes, ‘do we stick to this, do we want this?’ and they answered all these questions today.
"Of course they’ve got two more games now but they showed a side today which I didn’t see in them before."
Former Republic of Ireland international Damien Duff echoed Hamann’s sentiments and he believes that a result of this magnitude will only see belief within the squad grow.
"They do look a proper group. The questions were always there, I thought they were a bit soft maybe going back to 2016.
"I questioned the manager whether they all signed up to him but on nights like this, it brings you closer."
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