Thibaut Courtois says he 'never mocked' Jordan Pickford about his height

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Thibaut Courtois helped Belgium get past Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Thibaut Courtois insists he did not intend his recent remarks about Jordan Pickford to sound disparaging.

Belgium goalkeeper Courtois got involved in a bizarre spat over his England counterpart when he suggested, because he is taller, he might have saved Adnan Januzaj‘s winner when the two sides met in the World Cup last week.

Januazaj scored the only goal as Belgium beat England 1-0 in a group encounter in Kaliningrad.

Courtois feels his comments have been taken out of context to make it seem as if he was belittling the Everton player.

Speaking after Belgium’s semi-final win over Brazil, the Chelsea keeper told BBC Sport: “This thing about Jordan – I want to say and clarify it because I heard a lot of stuff.

“I never mocked his height, I want to make that clear, because I would never mock the height of a goalkeeper. I think he is a great goalkeeper. He proved that this year.

“I only said that, because he got a touch, I would have saved it because I am 15 centimetres taller, but I never mocked his height. He is a great goalkeeper. I want to make that clear.”

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Belgium showed the world how good they are against Brazil, insists Kevin De Bruyne

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On the scoresheet: Kevin De Bruyne.

Kevin De Bruyne felt Belgium proved to the world how good they are with their stunning victory over Brazil on Friday.

Belgium shocked the five-time champions 2-1 in their World Cup quarter-final in Kazan to set up a last-four clash with France.

De Bruyne himself was outstanding, getting on the scoresheet with a fierce long-range strike after his Manchester City team-mate Fernandinho had put through his own net.

Brazil did reply through substitute Renato Augusto late on but Belgium withstood considerable pressure to prevail.

De Bruyne told BBC Sport: “It is not easy to play against Brazil, they are such a wonderful team.

“But the power we have as a team has shown today, especially the first half. I think we played magnificently.

“The second half was very difficult and the last 15 minutes were a character test but I think we showed the world what we are capable of.”

There was controversy in the second half as Brazil had a strong penalty appeal turned down but Belgium made the most of their fortune.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made a number of good saves in the second half, including an excellent fingertip stop to deny Neymar in injury time.

The Chelsea keeper said: “I think I have been unfairly criticised a lot of times this year. OK, maybe sometimes I could have saved more but the amount of things I got I don’t think was always fair.

“I think today I proved why I am here and I am happy with that.”

The foundations for victory were laid by manager Roberto Martinez, who made some tactical changes which, most notably, allowed De Bruyne to play in a more advanced role than previous games.

This one is for Belgium! #redtogether 🇧🇪

A post shared by Kevin De Bruyne (@kevindebruyne) on

As a result Belgium dominated the first half but Martinez said the players deserved most credit.

He said: “It is the execution of the tactics that matters. The execution was magnificent. I couldn’t be prouder.

“They were incredible – incredible hearts out there. You have to accept Brazil have this finesse, this quality and they are going to break you down. But they didn’t accept that.

“I didn’t think for one minute they were going to give up. This is something special. These boys deserve to be really special people back in Belgium. I hope everyone in Belgium is very, very proud.”

Brazil coach Tite was magnanimous in defeat, saying in his post-match press conference: “It was a great game with two teams of incredible technical qualities.

“With all the pain I feel, it is difficult to come to talk to you, but if you like football you have to watch this game.

“We had a lot of the game, more possession and created chances. In terms of effectiveness we didn’t translate that into goals. They did.”

Tite was unwilling to discuss his future or the penalty appeal in which Gabriel Jesus appeared to be caught by Vincent Kompany but nothing was given, even after a VAR review.

Tite said: “The only thing I would have liked was to have seen the VAR replays in the play with Gabriel.”

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Neymar comes up short as Brazil are stunned by Belgium in World Cup quarter-final

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Neymar couldn't lift Brazil as they crashed out of the World Cup.

The World Cup of Neymar has come to a premature end.

Brazil’s star was set to lead his side on a redemption tour after their 2014 humiliation, but instead he was left trying to do too much and failing as La Selecao crashed out after a 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Belgium.

Here’s a closer look at Neymar’s performance on Friday.

KEY STATS

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 3

Shots on target – 1

Pass Accuracy – 83%

Key Passes – 7

Dribbles – 3

30-SECOND REPORT

This was a game where Neymar tried hard, kept the histrionics to a minimum – by his usual standards, at least – and was his least self-absorbed self. The urgency of chasing a two-goal deficit galvanised him. Unfortunately, Brazil needed magic, the sort Neymar is capable of producing but couldn’t on Friday. He came up just short and it brought his World Cup to an end.

GOT RIGHT

Chance creation – Neymar was already topping the charts for chances created and he added another seven on Friday. As usual, he was Brazil’s chief creative force, even if he ended up with no assists or goals.

Dribbling – The Paris Saint-Germain star can always be relied upon to wriggle his way out of tight corners and have the beating of his man. He was at it again on Friday.

GOT WRONG

At times Neymar was guilty of trying too hard, forcing the issue rather than letting the game come to him. It’s no wonder he was dispossessed more times (5) than any other player in the game even though he was his team’s standout player. If he is to lead a team to a major prize, this is a tendency he’ll have to curb.

VERDICT

Carrying the hopes of an entire nation is a heavy burden for anyone, and even more so when the country is Brazil and the prize is a World Cup trophy that hasn’t come home since 2002. That’s what weighs on Neymar’s shoulders, and on Friday, for all his best efforts, he couldn’t deliver. He’ll have to wait four more years for another chance.

RATING – 7/10

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