It's always nice when things work out according to plan, and that's exactly what Argentina got today as they faced off with Belgium in the quarter-final round of the World Cup.
Things haven't exactly gone to specs for Gonzalo Higuain in the tournament, though, with several sub-par performances for the Napoli striker on record. He was able to change all that today, though, hitting a gorgeous half-volley that was only barely saved, then instinctively latched on the the rebound and knocking it home to put Argentina up 1-0 just eight minutes in to the knockout match.
That would prove to be all Argentina needed, as their defense was able to lock down Belgium's previously-unbeaten attack. That they did so without Federico Fernandez, who was benched for Martin Dimichelis despite being Argentina's best defender so far in the tournament, is all the more impressive. Higuain had another glorious chance to score just after halftime, but was denied by the post after his shot deflected off a defender.
For his part, Dries Mertens tried to energize Belgium's attack after being brought on for a lackluster Kevin Mirallas at the hour mark. With Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne being basically marked out of the match, however, there was only so much Mertens could do, and in the end Belgium fell without too much more of a contest.
In point of fact, Argentina saw the better late chances, with Thibaut Courtoius scrambling to keep out several quality attempts from Lionel Messi. Belgium did have one glorious chance to equalize in stoppage time, but Romelu Lukaku's shot was cleared off the line and Axel Witsel's try at the rebound wound up closer to the International Space Station than it did the goal.
Argentina now move on to the semi-finals to face Holland, who had to go all the way to penalties to beat Costa Rica, who had been this World Cup's unlikely Cinderella story. The winner of that tie gets the privilege of facing one of the tournament's two favorites, as Germany will be taking on a Brazil side that will be lacking Neymar after he fractured a vertebra against Colombia after a challenge from Camilo Zuniga.