The ploy proved a masterstroke as De Bruyne tied Brazil's defence in knots in a brilliant opening half, scoring a stunning 31st minute goal to double the lead after Fernandinho's own goal.
The quarter finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup start Friday - and the games for that day include the highly anticipated match between Belgium and Brazil, following Belgium's last-minute comeback during their game with Japan.
The last time these two teams met during the World Cup was in 2002, during round 16 when Brazil won 2-0.
The South American five-time champions came to Russian Federation seeking to erase the pain of a 7-1 defeat against Germany in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup on home soil. Whilst in injury news, Danilio is now out for the World Cup with an ankle injury. While Eden Hazard and Romelo Lukaku both had incredible days for Belgium, this day belongs to Courtois.
With eight shutouts in the last nine games, including three in the four games in Russia, Brazil had the tightest defense of the remaining teams at the World Cup. The Real Madrid man was sorely missed as Fernandinho struggled to hold back Belgium's fearsome, relentless attack.
Notable: Dating to 1998, Brazil's last six World Cup losses have all come against European opposition. But despite getting a critical goal from Renato Augusto with a quarter-hour to play, the Brazilians just didn't seem to have any.
Brazil could have scored twice in the first few minutes as Thiago Silva bundled the ball awkwardly against the post from a corner and Paulinho mishit a shot from close range.
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France vs Uruguay, Brazil vs Belgium
The large number of upsets during the World Cup has changed many teams' paths to the final. England has a great chance to advance, but so does Sweden .
When you add in recent failures in other major competitions like Copa America, which Brazil hasn't won in over a decade, it doesn't matter that Brazil came into Friday's match unbeaten in its last 15 games, or that the giants dominated South American qualifying en route to Russian Federation. "Just treasure it and pass it down in the generations". This team were questioned for their mentality and character coming into this tournament - they disappointed at the Euros two years ago.
"Neymar is one of the biggest exponents of. decisive one-versus-one situations, so we'll have to keep an eye on him and allow our players to have a bigger role in the game".
They displayed some defensive frailties against Japan, but Martinez reorganised his team and they showed superb fighting spirit to get themselves back in the match.
"This game was our big test. Brazil are very strong offensively", De Bruyne said.
"I didn't think for one minute they were going to give up".
"I know Neymar likes to curl it that way, I was ready and made a good save", Courtois said of his late stop to BBC Sport.
Brazil made a change at half-time as they brought on Roberto Firmino for the ineffective Willian.