Have you ever held your breath for 90 minutes? A lot of Belgians held theirs on July 6th, 2018.
I’ll tell you how it felt to overcome the power house Brazil in a match that pushed us through to the World Cup semi-finals.
When you first start dreaming about being a professional goalie, you put a few items on your bucket list. Facing Brazil, without a doubt, was at the top. With the whole world watching, the pressure was on. You could sense it in the team, and feel it in the stands. Now is the time to deliver.
Brazil started off strong, living up to its reputation as one of the most dangerous teams in football history. They showed some swift attacks, even got close to the goal a few times. When I saw Silva with the ball, I realized we got very lucky it ricocheted off the bar, and not into the net. In that moment, we knew that we would need to step up our game if we wanted a spot in the semi-finals.
Then the game took a swing in our favor. In an unfortunate own goal by Fernandinho, our team took the lead in the first fifteen minutes. Still, there were 75 minutes left, and Brazil was determined to fight for the win. Some serious shots from Marcelo, Willian and Coutinho were thrown at our defense; but it was Kevin who scored the second goal for Belgium, with the help of Romelu.
Being two goals ahead of Brazil, we knew they’d push back. Coutinho’s shots were fast, dangerous and powerful. With his help, Augusto took his chance and made Brazil’s first goal. They were back in the game, and we were very much aware that the game could go either way at that point.
We had to stand our ground with attacks from Marcelo, Augusto, Firmino, Coutinho, and Costa, one quickly following the other. People often ask me if I’m most proud of my save against Neymar, but I don’t believe it was the most difficult one of the match. I was already in the right position, could feel where the ball would land and could catch it while it was still up in the air. To me, Douglas Costa’s shots were the trickiest ones. Twice he came in diagonally, forcing me to dive deep very quickly. His shots are much harder to stop because of their sheer force.
After Neymar’s attempt to equalize the game in the last few minutes, the final whistle marked the end of a true battle. Even though we didn’t take home the Cup, we made history bringing home Belgium the bronze.