‘Belgium's tactics stunned Brazil’ - Henry Abiodun hails Roberto Martinez’s masterstroke

Roberto Martinez Belgium Brazil
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According to the Sunshine Stars gaffer, the Samba Boys never anticipated Martinez’s tweaks as they were torn apart in a clinical first half in Kazan
Belgium’s unprecedented change to their tactics was responsible for Brazil's exit, according to Henry Abiodun.

The Red Devils secured a 2-1 win to send Tite’s charges packing from the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Friday's quarter-final clash at the Kazan Arena.

And Abiodun believes it was the tactical masterstroke from Roberto Martinez that handed the Europeans their second ever last-four ticket [first in 32 years] at the quadrennial showpiece.

Martinez made few key changes to his tactics and choice of players to overrun the Brazilians in the first half - in which a Fernandinho own goal and a rifle from Kevin De Bruyne [shifted up front as a false nine to accommodate Marouane Fellaini in midfield] - before they held on in the final 45 minutes, despite late scares after substitute Renato Augusto halved the deficit.

Belgium Abiodun PS

“It was an interesting game. Brazil attacked, Belgium also did but in the end, it was the Belgians that won, and they deserved it,” Abiodun told Goal.

“The game was a good display of tactics. Roberto Martinez went with another system, which clearly the Brazilians weren't expecting.

“Lukaku and Hazard were played wide, with De Bruyne shifted up front to play just behind them - in the middle.

“I think the Belgian’s setup stunned the Brazilians.

“[Brazil] were unsettled in the first half - which appeared to be [Belgium’s] plan - and just before they could adjust, they were two goals down. And in the second half, it was all on Belgium to hold on to their lead."

With Romelu Lukaku shifted to the right wing - a formation that mirrored Martinez’s idea in some key games during their time at Everton - the Sunshine Stars coach explained the advantages of playing the Manchester United striker near the byline.

“Playing Lukaku on the flank was one of the masterstrokes in the game,” he continued.

“It’s not easy to man-mark in that position, you could see the defender [Miranda] struggling in the first half.

“The striker was near the byline, so it made it difficult for him to be marked. Also, it afforded De Bruyne the space to score the second goal as the defenders left him enough space, expecting he'd perhaps pass to his right.”

Having mustered only a goal from 26 attempts at Belgium's goal, Abiodun - also not sold on the idea of the team suffering from not having a striker like Ronaldo de Lima - admits Brazil were unlucky.

“Brazil were just unlucky, considering the number of goalscoring chances they created," he said.

“They don't really need a striker [in the mould of Ronaldo]. If one looks at the squad, you'd see that it has goals written all over it.

“Douglas Costa came in and almost carved some, [Philippe] Coutinho missed the target too and Neymar would have gotten the leveller late in game.

“They just lacked the luck element.”

On Neymar and his various attempts to get a penalty, he said: “Neymar likes to intimidate his opponents.

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“He's no doubt a fantastic player, the star boy of Brazil. [However] his case is like that of a child that often cries wolf.

“He would have had a penalty in the game but his reputation means referees are now very careful to award him one. And that was just the case against Belgium."

Belgium now face France at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Tuesday for a spot in the final of the Russia 2018 World Cup.