Nacer Chadli scored with the last kick of the game to send Belgium into an mouthwatering Quarter-final tie against Brazil in Kazan on Friday. The Belgians came from 2-0 down to defeat Japan in a truly remarkable game.
Roberto Martinez’s men dominated the first half, but just couldn’t find the breakthrough as Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima kept Eden Hazard out with a fine save before Yuto Nagatomo dived in the way of another effort from the Chelsea man.
Romelu Lukaku began to drop into deeper areas as to create spaces in behind and his intelligent movement opened doors for Thomas Meunier cutting in from the right, but the PSG full-back couldn’t take advantage.
Quite astonishingly, Japan took the lead just three minutes into the second half after Takashi Inui played a ball beyond Vertonghen and Genki Haraguchi latched onto it before squeezing the ball past Thibaut Courtois and into the far corner.
Belgium were shell-shocked, and the Japanese lead was doubled in sublime fashion just five minutes later.
Inui let it fly from 25-yards out and the effort landed in the other bottom corner of Courtois’ goal. The upset was well and truly on.
Roberto Martinez threw Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli on in a roll of the dice; he rolled a six.
Chances came and went for Lukaku, who saw an effort blocked by Nagatomo once again and another effort flashed over the bar.
Vertonghen looped a header back over Kawashima with 20 minutes remaining and the game was well and truly on a knife edge as Belgians hunted down the equalizer.
After a corner was played back out to Hazard, the tricky winger chopped inside and curled the ball into the danger area where Fellaini was on hand to rise highest and nod home for the equalizer. The Belgians weren’t done there, they wanted the win, and wanted it before extra-time.
A Kevin De Bruyne shot was blocked and Kawashima managed to get back onto his feet in time to tip over a Lukaku header less than a second after diving to keep out Chadli.
Then, with mere seconds remaining, Belgium found the winner. A Japan free-kick was blocked and De Bruyne tore away through the centre of the pitch. The ball was fizzed across the penalty area and Lukaku showed the awareness and selflessness to dummy the ball and let it run into the path of Chadli who fired home with the last kick of the match. Heartbreak for Japan. Ecstasy for Belgium.
1966 – Belgium are the first team to come from 2+ goals down to win a World Cup knockout round match within 90 minutes since Portugal beat DPR Korea 5-3 in the 1966 quarter-final. Eusebio. #BEL #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/JcyWzi6l8F
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 2, 2018
Martinez’s men face Brazil in what is sure to be an enticing last-8 game on Friday night, and they’ll go into it with extreme momentum after this win.