Thomas Meunier 'Expected More Difficulties' from Brazil's Neymar in Belgium Win

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2018

KAZAN, RUSSIA - JULY 06:  Brazil's forward Neymar (L) vies with Belgium's defender Thomas Meunier during the Russia 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Brazil and Belgium at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on July 6, 2018.  (Photo by Fred Lee/Getty Images)
Fred Lee/Getty Images

Belgium defender Thomas Meunier has said he "expected more difficulties" from Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar in the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-final between the Red Devils and Brazil on Friday.

Neymar's Brazil were knocked out of the tournament in Russia after Belgium's 2-1 win, with the European nation running riot in the first half.

The Selecao talisman failed to show his best, as he was well shackled by the Red Devils defence and wasteful when he did get on the ball, and Meunier was in a direct battle with Neymar at times.

"I didn't expect that," Meunier said, per Dejan Kalinic of Goal. "I expected more difficulties, but we were so organised collectively. I always had help from Marouane Fellaini, from Toby Alderweireld. We were really focused on him, on [Philippe] Coutinho, on Marcelo, and we did a really wonderful job. I think we can congratulate ourselves for the job that we did defensively."

KAZAN, RUSSIA - JULY 06:  Neymar Jr of Brazil challenge for the ball with Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini of Belgium during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Brazil and Belgium at Kazan Arena on July 6, 2018 in K
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

From Meunier's perspective, it was a bittersweet match. The booking he picked up for a foul on Neymar rules him out of the semi-final with France.

The Stats Zone app broke down the numbers behind Neymar's display and that of his PSG team-mate, highlighting the former failed to make much of an impact:

It was Belgium's key attackers who shone brightest. After a Fernandinho own goal gave Roberto Martinez's team the lead, the European outfit cut the Selecao to ribbons on the counter-attack time and time again.

Kevin De Bruyne, who scored a fine second goal, led the charge brilliantly, while Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard were also devastating when picking up possession and driving forward. 

Belgium were deserved winners against Brazil.
Belgium were deserved winners against Brazil.Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

What was also impressive about Belgium was the manner in which the team stood firm amid late pressure from Brazil, especially after Renato Augusto halved the deficit. 

It was a frustrating night for Brazil and their star forward, and Neymar will reflect on this tournament as a missed opportunity.

Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph noted there appears to be too much focus on the Selecao No. 10:

This has been an up-and-down year for Neymar. While he enjoyed domestic success with PSG, an injury in February cut short his 2017-18 campaign, and he's since showcased only flashes of his best at the World Cup.

Sid Lowe of the Guardian observed that after leaving Barcelona last summer, the 26-year-old's career appears to have stalled:

By the time the next World Cup rolls around, it will have been 20 years since Brazil's most recent triumph in the tournament, and Neymar will be 30.

While there were times when the South Americans did appear to be the strongest team in the competition in Russia, their big players failed to show up against a vibrant and dynamic opponent on Friday. Four years is a long time for Neymar and his team-mates to wait to make up for that.

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