Belgium set up Brazil showdown with 3-2 win over Japan

Belgium set up Brazil showdown with 3-2 win over Japan
Eden Hazard (L) of Belgium and Shinji Kagawa of Japan in action during the FIFA World Cup 2018 round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and Japan in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, 02 July 2018.

by Graeme Jackson

Monday Jul 02, 2018. 22:04

Belgium suffered an almighty scare in their 2018 World Cup last 16 clash with Japan at the Rostov Arena, but recovered to claim an amazing 3-2 win at the Rostov Arena.

The ‘Red Devils’ looked set to suffer a shock defeat when they were two goals down early in the second half, but they fought back to claim a thrilling victory which sets up a last-eight showdown with Brazil on Friday night.

Belgium’s first clear chance arrived in the 25th minute, with Dries Mertens providing a fine cross from the right flank to pick out Romelu Lukaku, but while the striker was able to hold off Maya Yoshida he couldn’t get a clean connection on the ball.

Two minutes later Eden Hazard warmed the hands of Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima with a powerful effort as the European side turned up the pressure. However, the ‘Samurai Blue’ responded with a couple of swift counter attacks, the best of which saw Thibaut Courtois save from Takashi Inui’s header.

The Belgian keeper also allowed a tame effort from Yuya Osako to slip through his hands late in the half, but he recovered quickly to smother the ball before it crossed the goal line and prevent a major embarrassment.

The ‘Red Devils’ appeared to have the game under control, but early in the second half they were stunned by two quick goals. The first, in the 48th minute, saw Genki Haraguchi capitalise on an error from Jan Vertonghen before firing a low shot into the bottom corner.

Four minutes later Japan doubled their advantage through a wonderful strike from Takashi Inui, who fired a long-range effort beyond Courtois to put the Asian side on course for one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.

In between the goals Belgium’s Hazard had rattled the woodwork, while just past the hour mark Lukaku missed out on a great header chance as he put his effort wide of the far post with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Yet the ‘Red Devils’ kept coming and Vertonghen atoned for his earlier mistake with a brilliant looping header to pull one back in the 69th minute and give his side hope of a comeback.

And just five minutes later substitute Marouane Fellaini demonstrated his aerial power as he held off Makoto Hasebe and powered home a header from Hazard’s cross to make it 2-2.

Belgium pushed for a late winner and in the 85th minute they forced Kawashima into a double save to keep out headed efforts from Nacer Chadli and the increasingly frustrated Lukaku, while Courtois was also called into late action to keep out a deflected effort from Yuto Nagamoto and a dipping free kick from Keisuke Honda before the end of injury time.

The match looked set for extra time, but right at the death a Japan corner kick sparked a Belgium counter attack which ended with Chadli firing home a low shot from Thomas Meunier’s pass to win the clash 3-2 and set up a quarterfinal meeting with Brazil.

Belgium (0) 3 (Vertonghen 69’, Felliani 74’, Chadli 90+4’)
Japan (0) 2 (Haraguchi 48’, Inui 52’)

Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen, Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco (Chadli 65’), Mertens (Fellaini 65’), Lukaku, E. Hazard

Japan: Kawashima, H. Sakai, Yoshida, Shoji, Nagamoto, Hasebe, Shibasaki (Honda 81’), Haraguchi (Yamaguchi 81’), Kagawa, Inui, Osako

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