Belgium 3 – 2 Japan #WorldCup

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Belgium completed a remarkable revival as they came from the World Cup abyss and beat Japan to reach the quarter-finals.

Roberto Martinez’s side were trailing 2-0 when he brought on Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli in the 65th minute, and Fellaini scored the equaliser before Chadli netted a 94th-minute winner.

They now face Brazil in the last eight on Friday.

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Japan looked on their way to a famous win in Rostov after Genki Haraguchi ran onto Gaku Shibasaki’s long ball, which Jan Vertonghen should have cut out, to open the scoring.

Takashi Inui’s 25-yard strike made it 2-0 and looked set to take the Asian side to their first ever quarter-finals.

Belgium’s Premier League stars – their golden generation – had put in a disappointing performance and Martinez turned to the oft-ridiculed Fellaini and West Brom winger Chadli in his hour of need.

Their fortunes changed after that as Vertonghen scored a looping header to get them back into the game.

Fellaini then headed in Hazard’s cross to level before Chadli converted Thomas Meunier’s pass to finish off a flowing move and help the Red Devils avoid being the latest victims of a World Cup of shocks.

Belgium become the first team to fight back from two goals down to win a World Cup knockout game since Germany against England in 1970.

Belgium clearly have the players – Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Courtois are some of the Premier League’s undoubted stars. They are now unbeaten in 23 games, but there are always questions about whether they are tactically astute.

Martinez and his players will feel they have gone some way to answering those, and finding a real winning touch, having looked dead and buried after an hour.

Chelsea winger Hazard had hit the post in one their few good chances in the opening 60 minutes.

But they ground their way back into the game – even though the goal to give them hope was a bit of a fluke. Inui booted the ball up into the air and Vertonghen’s looping header flew over keeper Eiji Kawashima, who should have done better.

At 20 yards, it is the longest headed goal since those stats were first recorded in 1966.

Then the substitutes came to the fore. Fellaini, who signed a new Manchester United deal last week, powered in Hazard’s centre to level the scores after 74 minutes.

And the winner was a real team effort. Goalkeeper Courtois rolled the ball to De Bruyne, who had been quiet for 90 minutes but exploded into life when his country needed him.

The Manchester City playmaker carried the ball 60 yards before feeding Meunier, his cross was stepped over by Lukaku, and Chadli was on hand to steer it home.

Lukaku had scored 17 goals in his previous 11 Belgium games but his decision to not shoot on this occasion might prove more crucial than any of those.

Japan have taken big gambles in the past few months and after an hour in Rostov, it looked like they were paying off in style.

First they sacked head coach Vahid Halilhodzic and replaced him with Akira Nishino two months before the tournament started.

And then they controversially sat back in order to maintain a 1-0 deficit in their defeat by Poland in their final group game – even though a goal elsewhere could have knocked them out.

And it looked as if the Blue Samurai were going to become only the third Asian nation ever to reach the World Cup quarter-finals when they deservedly took the lead.

Haraguchi kept his composure to shoot across Courtois and give them the lead and then the impressive Inui blasted in a long-range second to put them in control.

In truth, they did not have a host of chances – with only four shots on target in total – and all the momentum had deserted them by the time Chadli placed the ball past Kawashima with seconds remaining.

Source – BBC

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