Brasilia, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - A goal in the eighth minute from Gonzalo Higuain was enough to propel Argentina to a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Belgium at the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia on Saturday.
Higuain handed Argentina the early lead with a well-struck shot after a deflected pass from Angel Di Maria, while Argentina's defense made the goal hold up with an organized display that limited Belgium's chances and gave goalkeeper Sergio Romero a fairly easy afternoon between the posts.
"Argentina didn't wow us. They looked quite an ordinary side to me, but they used their experience well," Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots said. "They started as favorites, scored an early goal and then knew how to handle being in front, by stopping us getting any momentum going."
The win moves Argentina into the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, where the team will face the Netherlands on Wednesday.
"Ever since the first game I've been saying that I wasn't worried, that my first goal would come, and fortunately it came at a crucial time," Higuain said. "It's been a long time since Argentina reached the semifinals and I'm happy it's this group of players that managed it, because they deserve it. Now we want to keep going and reach the final."
Both sides entered Saturday's match having yet to really hit top gear at this World Cup, but Argentina got off to a quick start with the opening goal arriving after just eight minutes.
Di Maria attempted to deliver a pass into the penalty area that was deflected by a Belgium defender. The ball fell kindly to the feet of Higuain and he hammered a first-time shot perfectly inside the left post.
It was a great start for the South American side, but Belgium tried to respond in the 26th minute when Kevin De Bruyne lashed a powerful shot on target from 25 yards that forced Romero to parry the shot before it was cleared to safety.
Argentina head coach Alejandro Sabella was forced to make a substitution in the 33rd minute when Di Maria went down with a thigh injury and was replaced by Enzo Perez in the midfield.
Di Maria's absence took away a bit of creativity from Argentina, although Lionel Messi had a good chance in the 39th when he was tripped at the top of the box and drove his free kick just past the top corner of the net.
Jan Vertonghen was able to get forward from his left-back spot and provide service from the wing, and one of his crosses nearly led to the equalizer a few minutes before the break when Kevin Mirallas got on the other end of the ball and turned a header narrowly wide of the post.
Higuain was the most dangerous player for Argentina and he came within inches of doubling the lead in the 55th when he sliced through the middle of the Belgium defense and drove a shot past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois that skimmed off the top of the crossbar.
Vertonghen created another good chance in the 61st when his cross found the head of Marouane Fellaini, whose effort sailed over the crossbar from a dangerous position.
Argentina sat back and defended over the rest of the match and De Bruyne saw a deflected shot nearly sneak inside the right post with five minutes to play.
Messi was denied by Courtois in stoppage time in a one-on-one situation that could have put the match away, while Belgium's last throw of the dice came on a half-volley from the edge of the penalty area by Axel Witsel which curled away from the top corner, sending Argentina into the last four.
"We've achieved our minimum objective, which was to reach the last four, but we want more. That's what we've come for," Sabella said.