Belgium made a stunning comeback on Monday night as they beat Japan to reach the quarter-finals despite trailing trailing 2-0 for most part of the match.
What started the remarkable turnaround for Belgium was the introduction of Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli in the 65th minute, as Vertonghen scored a looping header to get them back into the game and Fellaini scored the equaliser before Chadli netting a 94th-minute winner.
Japan were all set to create history by qualifying to the quarter-finals as Genki Haraguchi opened the score for hsi team. Minutes later, Takashi Inui’s 25-yard strike made it 2-0.
Such was Japan’s dominance that 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. Belgium’s charismatic Eden Hazard and in-form striker Romelu Lukaku both seemed frustrated with the inability of their team-mates to find them.
Belgium are the first team to fight back from two goals down to win a World Cup knockout game since West Germany against England in 1970.
However, even in defeat, Japan earned plenty of respect from football fans across the world, who took to social media to applaud their fighting spirit. One fan wrote, “Loosing is never an option but if you gonna loose, loose like Japan.” Another Belgian fan wrote, “I have nothing but respect for Japan after my team’s hard-fought comeback.” “Japan, you have my respect. Well played,” wrote another fan.
In fact, when asked after the match, even Hazard conceded that Japan were capable of beating any team if they played like how they did on Monday.
Belgium will now face Brazil in the quarter-finals on Friday. Belgium have never won a major tournament with their last two big outings, the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016, ending at the quarter-finals stage. However, this team being termed as the golden-generation of the Belgian football and many players from the current side have been dominating the high-profile English Premier League.
Earlier on Monday, Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 despite the latter displaying more aggressive football. For Brazil, Neymar scored one goal and played a key role in the second as the substitute, Roberto Firmino netted the pass from the former to make it 2-0 in 88th minute.
On Friday, when they face Belgium, Brazil will be without Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro, who will be suspended after being shown his second yellow card of the tournament.