Belgium accomplished the mother of all comebacks on Monday night, rallying from 0-2 down in the second-half to secure a 3-2 win over Japan in their last-16 clash at the Rostov Arena to set up a quarter-final against Brazil.
The first-half had been relatively sedate, with neither side able to break the deadlock.
Arguably, Belgium had the better hand but an obdurate Japanese defence held firm for the first 45 minutes.
However, the tie turned on its head in a space of four second-half minutes as suddenly Japan were 2-0 up.
The first was a lightning-fast counter, with Jan Vertonghen missing the through-ball to Genki Haraguchi and while the Japanese forward hesitated at first, he unleashed a low drive past that left Thibaut Courtois clutching at air.
Belgium almost equalised immediately via Eden Hazard but their skipper’s shot crashed off the woodwork and all of a sudden, Japan were coasting.
Takashi Inui calmly collected Shiji Kagawa’s layoff near the box and curled one past Courtois to leave the Belgian Red Devils shellshocked.
With little over 30 minutes left in the tie, there was still time for a turnaround but it would take something special for Belgium to reduce the deficit.
And Vertonghen’s strike was definitely that, a looping header from almost outside the box, and intentional or not, Belgium were level in the 69th minute.
Roberto Martinez had sent on the one-man battering ram that is Maroaune Fellaini along with Nacer Chadli and the Manchester United midfielder did the job his manager had sent him on to do with minimum fuss.
Hazard curled one in with his left foot and Fellaini rose highest to head home with 16 minutes left in the tie.
Japan, somewhat naively, refused to be cowed down and were chasing a third right until injury time and it proved to be their undoing in the end as Courtois released Kevin De Bruyne after collecting a corner late in the tie.
The Manchester City man stretched his legs and fed the galloping Thomas Meunier on the right and the fullback’s low cross fizzed across the goal and as Lukaku deftly let it go past him, Chadli arrived to tap in and break Japanese hearts.
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Earlier in the day, Brazil had beaten Mexico 2-0 and while the five-time champions will be fancying their chances against Belgium, Martinez’s men will be buzzing about their win over the Blue Samurai for a while.