Japanese hearts were broken by an injury-time winner as Belgium came from 0-2 down to snatch victory in the round of 16.
The Samurai Blue emerged from a goalless first half to be two-goals ahead by 52 minutes through Genki Haraguchi’s breakaway and the outstanding Takashi Inui’s piledriver. A first entry into the last eight seemed set from that point.
But Roberto Martinez’s hotly tipped side weren’t done. Headers from Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini levelled things up by 74 minutes at Rostov Arena, before Chadli swept in a 94th-minute counter-attack to become the first nation since West Germany in 1970 to comeback from 2-0 behind in the World Cup’s knockouts.
A great World Cup upset was avoided from the moment Martinez ditched his purist principles on 65 minutes, utilising a power play through replacements Fellaini and Chadli.
The key takeaway for Belgium will be the indefatigable spirit on show. Rumours of splits in the camp between Flemish and French speakers, plus an explosive mixture of egos, have bedevilled this ‘Golden Generation’.
Selflessness, exhibited most by striker Romelu Lukaku, is a positive takeaway from a disquieting night.
Belgium will now play favourites Brazil in the next stage.
Know more about Sport360 Application