VIDEO BELGIUM BEAT JAPAN IN THE DYING SECONDS OF A WORLD CUP LAST 16 CRACKERDate: 2018-07-03
An incredible injury-time winner by Nacer Chadli sees Belgium advance to a World Cup quarter-final showdown with Brazil after fighting back from 2-0 down to defeat Japan 3-2.
Belgium's team effort for the final goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time makes them the first team in 48 years to successfully overturn a 2-0 deficit in a World Cup knockout game.
The Red Devils will face five-time champions Brazil in Kazan on Friday after scoring three second-half goals without reply to break Japan's dogged resistance in what was an epic last-16 battle.
Early in the second half, Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui put Japan 2-0 in just four devastating minutes as the Belgians were left reeling.
However, the depth of the Red Devils resolve was soon on display as they responded with two quick goals from the heads of Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini. This put the game on a knives-edge before Chadli's dramatic winner in the dying moments of overtime.
Relieved Belgium manager Roberto Martinez saluted his team, saying, "No negatives today, it was about getting through ... It is a day to be very proud of these players.
"Keep believing in Belgium. In the World Cup, you want to be perfect but it's about getting through, it's about winning."
Japan suffered knock-out stage heartbreak for the third time, previously in 2002 and 2010, but they can be proud of an incredible performance.
The Blue Samurai's tactics were clear from the start, harass and close down Belgium as fast as possible and counter quickly. It almost paid off.
After a goalless first-half, where the only shot was a long-range effort from Eden Hazzard, the pace of the game increased, as did the excitement of the crowd.
Japan took the lead on 48 minutes to delight Japanese fans after winning possession deep in their own half and moving the ball quickly downfield. When Vertonghen failed to intercept the final pass, Haraguchi sprinted clear and placed his shot just past Thibaut Courtois and inside the far post.
Falling behind rattled the Belgians as Moments later, Hazard clattered the post for Belgium moments later but, within four minutes of the first goal, Japan doubled their lead with an incredible strike from Inui from outside the box.
As the hour mark approached, Lukaku headed wide of an open net, sparking confidence in the Japanese ranks.
Then, with 25 minutes left, Fellaini and Chadli were swapped for Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco, which lit the Belgium response.
As the clock approached 69 minutes, Vertonghen – who was responsible for the mistake in the build-up to Japan's opening goal – unleashed a header from 20 yards out that looped over Eiji Kawashima's outstretched hands.
Although it's unclear if he was trying to find a teammate in the box or was actually aiming for the net, it will go down in the history books as the longest goal-scoring header in the World Cup since officials started recording statistics in 1966.
Minutes later Belgium drew level when Hazard's pin-point ball found the head of Fellaini in the middle of the six-yard box, igniting 15 minutes of end-to-end excitement.
Japan's goalkeeper and captain, Kawashima, kept his side in the game with two saves in quick succession to deny Chadli and Lukaku.
Japan responded with pressure on the other side of the field, forcing Courtois to save Keisuke Honda's wickedly curling free shot – which led to the winning goal.
The Belgium goalkeeper was quick to clear the ball, rolling it to Kevin de Bruyne who charged upfield, finding Thomas Meunier unmarked out wide who then whipped in a superb cross.
Lukaku, in a display of unselfishness, left it for Chadli to tap home and cap Belgium's stunning win right before the final whistle and extra time.