Belgium pulled off a stunning come-from-behind win to condemn a spirited Japan 3-2 and fix a quarterfinal date with Brazil in a rip-roaring round of 16 FIFA World Cup game at Rostov on Monday.
Genki Haraguchi (48th) and Takashi Inui (52nd) gave Japan a shock 2-0 lead in the space of four second-half minutes but Jan Vertonghen (69th), substitutes Marouane Fellaini (74th) and Nacer Chadli (90+4) swung the tie dramatically in Belgium’s favour in theatrical fashion.
Belgium will now take on Brazil on July 6 in Kazan. As expected, Belgium bossed the opening period with Eden Hazard coming close to breaking the deadlock in the 27th minute.
Dries Mertens’ cross found Romelu Lukaku in the middle but the ball got tangled under his feet with Hazard on hand to take a swipe.
Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima wasn’t really tested throughout the first half as the Asian powerhouses showed a lot of grit at the back and tried to break on the counter.
Hazard and in-form striker Romelu Lukaku seemed frustrated with the inability of their team-mates to find them. Thibaut Courtois was forced into a save when Takashi Inui met Yuto Nagatomo’s cross inside the box. Japan’s best chance came towards the dying minutes of the first period.
Nagatomo’s cross-shot nicked off the foot of Yuya Osako to trickle towards Thibaut Courtois who uncharacteristically spilled it. A quick recovery from the Belgium defenders stopped the ball from rolling over the line.
After the break, Japan looked like a side possessed and were 2-0 up inside of the first 10 minutes after the restart when Haraguchi scored Japan’s first from a Gaku Shibasaki through ball that was mis-played by Jan Vertonghen.
Immediately, Hazard’s try from just outside the box came off the post at the other end but to the Asian side’s delight a Vincent Kompany clearance fell to Shinji Kagawa, who laid off for Takashi Inui to fire home a stunner from 20 yards away that left Courtois no chance.
Japan then missed a couple of chances as Lukaku also spurned a header wide in a match which was end to end to say the least.
Roberto Martinez’s team sprang to life after their first and were level soon after as substitute Fellaini met Hazard’s cross and ruffled the net to make it 2-2.
Kawashima then kept out two quality Belgium chances on 85 minutes, punching away a Chadli header before palming Lukaku’s follow-up effort over the bar. (IANS)