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Belgium 3-2 Japan: World Cup 2018, last 16 result, goals

Nacer Chadli's 94th-minute goal booked Belgium's place in the quarter-finals as the Red Devils came back from 2-0 down to beat Japan.
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Belgium's midfielder Nacer Chadli (hidden) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Russia 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between Belgium and Japan at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on July 2, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Odd ANDERSEN

Belgium 3-2 Japan: match report

Belgium booked their place for the Friday night showdown against Brazil with a last gasp effort from Nacer Chadli against Japan on Monday night. Having looked lost at sea midway through the second half, Belgium fought back and won the game in the dying seconds thanks to a razor sharp counter-attack.

It was Japan who took the lead despite look out on their feet for large spells of the first half. The were creating chances but Belgium were laying the pressure on thick up the other end and could have had a handful of goals before the half-time whistle.

On 48 minutes, however, Genki Haraguchi took the ball into the penalty are from a counter and sent a rocket past Thibaut Courtois into a the only space he could from a tight angle. Japan were 1-0 up and were still looking dangerous in attack. They doubled their lead four minutes later whe Takashi Inui sent another laser beam past Courtois, this time to the other side of the Belgian keeper.

Belgium had to act. But it seemed like they were out of luck when Hazard struck the post from a volley inside the penalty area. Were we about to have another scalp at the World Cup. The steep slope Belgium were looking up at became easier when Jan Vertonghen sent a header looping over Eiji Kawashima. That was followed up by a header from substitue Marouane Fellaini. 

The game cooled at that point but both sides were still dreaming of a winner. Japan were awarded a corner with what we thought would be the last kick of the game but Courtois grabbed it and sprung Kevin de Bruyne free. He played it to Thomas Meunier and after a stepover from Lukaku, Chadli slid home the winner with no time for Japan to even think about a reply.

It was close, it was not always a certainty and it was, at times, lucky but Belgium march on to meet Brazil in a heavyweight showdown in the quarter-final. Meanwhile, Japan, who sacked their manager just weeked before the tournament will go home wondering what might have been.

Belgium vs Japan live online: World Cup 2018, as it happened

Belgium vs Japan: match preview

The odds on Belgium being one of the two finalists to step out into the Luzhniki Stadium on 15 July have been getting shorter as the tournament progresses. Roberto Martínez’s hugely talented Red Devils were one of just three teams to finish the group stage with a flawless record - topping their section with maximum points, an average of three goals per game with only two conceded – both during their second game against Tunisia. That has made them firm favourites to go on and lift the trophy – which is a completely new situation for a country whose best performance at the tournament came 32 years ago when they were denied third place by France.

No other team at the tournament has the punching power and variety in attack which Belgium boast. Much of their play goes through Kevin De Bruyne who pulls the strings in the centre of the park for a team which plays three at the back, with attacking wide players on either flank. It means that Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard, who lurks just behind him, receive a steady supply of balls in the box – the Manchester United striker is joint second top scorer at the tournament on four goals, level with Cristiano Ronaldo and just one behind Harry Kane.

Levels of confidence and self-belief have never been higher – Belgium are in an unbeaten streak which has lasted 22 competitive fixtures – their last defeat came almost two years ago, losing 0-2 to Spain in a friendly - curiously, Martínez’s first game in charge.

Belgium were already mathematically through to the Last 16 after their first two group games, beating Panama 3-0 then Tunisia 5-2. Adnan Januzaj’s sublime winner against England made sure they finished top of the group

Japan’s progress to the Round of 16 was unconventional to say the least. Akira Nishino’s team made it through by merit of their disciplinary record after finishing level on points with Senegal in Group H. Nevertheless, Japan showed that they are an organized, competitive side who never let their heads drop in the 2-2 draw with Senegal in which they had to come from behind twice. They are also technically sound and once they have the ball at their feet, it is very difficult to prise it away from them.

The Samurai Blues are hoping this will be their moment to make history. They’ve never made as far as the quarter finals at the World Cup and with Takashi Inui and Shinji Kagawa in such inspired form, they will want to seize this chance.

Neither Martínez nor Nishino will have been too overburdened studying their rivals for this game – Belgium and Japan met a few months ago for a friendly in Brussels which the hosts won by the minimum in a game which Martínez remembers as being “entertaining”. So both teams know the other’s strengths and weaknesses well enough to make for what will doubtless be an interesting duel – the winners of which will face Brazil in Kazan in the second quarter final match on 6 July.


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