Gonzalo Higuain's first goal of this World Cup sent Argentina into the semifinals Saturday with a 1-0 win over Belgium in Brasilia, Brazil.

Argentina, which hadn't advanced past the World Cup quarterfinals since 1990, controlled the match after Higuain's eighth-minute goal, more due to disciplined defending than a sparkling attack.

"Since the first game of this World Cup I was calm, that the goals would come. It came and at an important moment," Higuain said. "It's been so many years since we made it to the semifinals. Now we did."

The Napoli striker fired home Angel Di Maria's deflected pass just inside the area, beating Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a low shot to the far corner of the goal as he turned.

"Higuain has the class to put the ball where he wants it. There is nothing we could do about it," Courtois said of the goal.

Higuain came close to making it 2-0 in the second half when his shot smashed into the crossbar. Lionel Messi missed a chance to score his fifth goal of the tournament when he failed to beat Courtois on a counterattack in stoppage time.

Belgium lacked the creativity to find a way past Argentina's disciplined defense and created few chances apart from a pair of headers by Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini. Belgium's most creative player, Eden Hazard, cut a disconsolate figure as he was substituted for in the 75th minute.

Argentina's next opponent is the Netherlands on Wednesday in Sao Paulo.


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"After 24 years, we can be among the four best teams in the world," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said. "At least we lived up to the minimum objective."

Despite the loss, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots was not impressed by the Argentines, calling them "just an ordinary team."

  • Di Maria -- Argentina's most influential player in Brazil aside from Messi -- was substituted by Enzo Perez in the 33rd minute. The winger suffered a thigh injury, and his status for the Dutch is in doubt.

  • Brazil's Justice Ministry says police have detained the alleged leader of Argentina's infamous football hooligans. Pablo Alvarez was taken into custody at the Argentina-Belgium match. Alvarez will be deported.

    Neymar speaks: Brazil star Neymar says his World Cup may be over because of a fractured vertebra but that his dream of celebrating the title with his teammates is still alive. In a video released by the Brazilian football confederation, Neymar thanked fans and everyone else for the support in this "very difficult moment."

    "I don't have words to describe what has been going through my head and my heart," said Neymar, trying to stay upbeat but still sporting a subdued look on his face. "I just want to say that I will be back as soon as possible. When you least expect I'll be back."

    Dr. Jose Luiz Runco said the injury won't have long-term effects on Neymar and said the player could even travel to Belo Horizonte to watch the semifinal against Germany on Tuesday if he is not feeling a lot of pain. Runco believes Neymar can return to action in about 45 days.

    Neymar was hurt in the 86th minute of Brazil's 2-1 win over Colombia on Friday. He broke his third vertebra after being kneed in the back by Juan Camillo Zuniga.

    Zuniga sent a letter of apology to Neymar, saying he is "deeply sorry and sad" for causing the injury. "Although I feel the situation was normal in a game, there was no bad intention, malice or negligence on my part. ... I hope you recover and return quickly."