World Cup: Belgium beat Japan in thriller

Belgium were given an almighty scare by Japan, but emerged victorious in a 3-2 thriller in Rostov.

The Asian side took a 2-0 lead early in the second half, but the Belgians fought back to 2-2 and Nacer Chadli won it at the death to set up a quarter-final with Brazil.

Roberto Martinez’s Diables Rouges were heavy favourites going into the game, and fielded a strong line-up featuring Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Napoli’s Dries Mertens.

Belgium were given an almighty scare by Japan, but emerged victorious in a 3-2 thriller in Rostov.

The Asian side took a 2-0 lead early in the second half, but the Belgians fought back to 2-2 and Nacer Chadli won it at the death to set up a quarter-final with Brazil.

Roberto Martinez’s Diables Rouges were heavy favourites going into the game, and fielded a strong line-up featuring Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Napoli’s Dries Mertens.

They had plenty of the ball in the first half, but offered very little to threaten the Japanese defence.

Romelu Lukaku hit a fierce strike from the edge of the box, but it was deflected behind by former Inter full-back Yuto Nagatomo.

The Manchester United striker should have scored on 25 minutes, but under pressure from Maya Yoshida he failed to connect properly and Kawashima gathered.

It wasn’t all Belgium though, and Takashi Inui gave an indication of what was to come when he headed straight at Courtois after Nagatomo’s cross.



The ex-Nerazzurro almost had a hand one of the all-time great goalkeeping howlers, when his strike found its way to Yoyo Osako at the near post.

It was a shot from Nagatomo, and the forward couldn’t react quickly enough, but Courtois spilled the ball which had come off his toe.

Fortunately for the Belgians, there wasn’t a Japanese player on hand to turn it in to the empty net.

They may have gotten away with that one, but Martinez’s men did fall behind three minutes after the break.

Jan Vertonghen misjudged a long pass, allowing the ball to find its way through to Genki Haraguchi.

It was a tight angle, but the Hannover midfielder took it on with his right foot and found the far corner.

Things went from bad to worse four minutes later, and it was an even better strike which doubled the Japanese lead.

Shinji Kagawa chested the ball down on the edge of the area before laying it off to Inui, who unleashed a rasping strike which left Courtois with no chance as it found the corner.

Lukaku missed another sitter, heading wide from close range when he only had to hit the target to score.

It could have been three, but Osako could only hit Courtois from close range having been teed-up by Sakai.

Having made the mistake for the first goal, it was Verthongen who got his side back into the game, although it must be said he didn’t mean to.

The Tottenham centre-back attempted to head the ball across the box, but the ball instead looped over Kawashima and into the far corner from 19 metres out.

That galvanised Belgium, who soon found themselves level.

Hazard swung in a stunning cross, and substitute Marouane Fellaini met it in the box to head past Kawashima.

The Japan goalkeeper then palmed away a header from Nacer Chadli, and Lukaku headed straight at him when the ball was put back in.

The Asian side weren’t settling for extra-time though, and former Milan man Keisuke Honda attempted a free-kick from long range.

It was a fine strike, which Courtois had to push out for a corner.

From the resulting kick, the goalkeeper came out to gather and had the presence of mind to roll it out quickly.

De Bruyne broke forward and slipped it wide to Meunier, whose cross was dummied by Lukaku in the middle.

Japan had too many players committed forward, and Chadli was on hand to win it with practically the last kick of the game.

Belgium 3-2 Japan

Haraguchi 48 (J) Inui 52 (J) Vertonghen 69 (B) Fellaini 74 (B) Chadli 94 (B)

Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Verthongen; Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco (Chadli, 65); Mertens (Fellaini, 65), Lukaku, Hazard

Japan: Kawashima; Sakai, Yoshida, Shoji, Nagatomo; Hasebe, Shibasaki (Yamaguchi, 81); Haraguchi (Honda, 81), Kagawa, Inui; Osako

 

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