Argentina eased into the World Cup semi-finals as a disappointing Belgium side made a low-key exit from the tournament.
Gonzalo Higuain’s excellent early strike provided the foundation for Argentina to win 1-0 and make it to the last four for the first time since Diego Maradona’s day in 1990 when they finished runners-up.
Higuain for once outshone Lionel Messi, but Maradona’s spiritual heir also provided a constant threat that kept Marc Wilmot’s Belgium side on the back foot.
Messi started off playing deep, seeing plenty of the ball and creating some good positions for his team-mates.
One such move put Ezequiel Lavezzi clear on the right and only Vincent Kompany’s alert intervention prevented a goal.
It took less than eight minutes however for Argentina to take a huge step towards the semi-final and it was Messi, twisting and turning in midfield, who was the architect.
His incisive pass to Angel di Maria was diverted to Higuain, taking a nick off a defender which caused the ball to bounce up for the Napoli striker to swivel and thump a first-time shot low into the corner from 25 yards out.
Belgium attempted to make some headway but Argentina immediately dropped back into two banks of four whenever they lost possession, and when the Red Devils did get into good positions they failed to make use of it.
Argeninta will face Netherlands in the semi-finals, after the Dutch won 4-3 on penalties against Costa Rica following a 0-0 draw.