One of the all time great World Cup games.

What Happened

In what will go down as a Round of 16 World Cup classic Belgium overcame Japan thanks to a 94th minute winner from Nacer Chadli in a dramatic and seesawing knockout game.

Embed from Getty Images

The two nations were really feeling each other out in the opening quarter of the game with plenty of attacking at either end but no real chances of merit until after the 25th minute when Belgium turned up the pressure a few notches.

A number of early balls swung into the box from Belgium’s creators threatened a breakthrough but nothing came to fruition. It did however set a tone for the rest of the half with the Red Devils well on top and controlling the tempo but Japan looking dangerous on the occasional counterattack.

It was Japan who flew out of the blocks in the second half to shock Belgium first through a well taken goal by Genki Haraguchi on the counter that was swept past Thibaut Courtois. The second just minutes later came from a long range Takashi Inui strike that was perfectly placed in the corner of the net.

Jan Vertonghen bought Belgium back into touching distance with a header that looked to be meant to find a teammate but somehow found the back of the net. Before long the Red Devils were back level thanks to some nifty work out wide from Eden Hazard to create room for a perfect cross that found the head of substitute Marouane Fellaini who made no mistake.

The game swung again head into extra time with Japan were looking the most likely to grab a winner but it was Belgium on the counter from a Blue Samurai corner who found the goal thanks to Chadli who tapped home Thomas Meunier’s square ball to give their nation the most dramatic of victories.

Stand Out Performers

It’s hard to pick stand out performers when nearly every player on the pitch threw their all into the match. Aside from the goalscorers who all deserve credit, Belgium’s captain Eden Hazard showed his leadership capabilities throughout the match and most importantly when it all seemed lost after Japan’s second goal. He was a calming influence on the others around him and directly contributed to the comeback with a perfectly lofted cross to Fellaini.

Embed from Getty Images

Credit should definitely also go to referee Malang Diedhiou who had an outstanding game and let the game flow without making it all about himself.

Talking Points

Japan had never scored a World Cup knockout game goal in the history heading into the game and to score two against one of the Europe’s elite is a brilliant achievement. Having got the goals however it’s a huge wasted opportunity that sees them yet again fail to get past the Round of 16 at the World Cup.

Belgium have certainly underwhelmed in recent tournaments given the current crop of talent they have to choose from. This may be the match that shows a turnaround in mentality away from consistently crumbling under the spotlight and towards a side with character and calmness. They become the first team since West Germany in 1970 against England to come from two goals behind in the knockout rounds of the World Cup which should come as a huge warning sign to their rivals.

What it Means

Japan head out with their heads held high but with thoughts of what could’ve and really should have been. They played just about the perfect game against their opponents but just couldn’t hold out the onslaught from Belgium’s attackers.

Embed from Getty Images

The Red Devils go marching on after a huge scare but it may prove to be the galvanising game that they needed to go deep in this World Cup. If they go on to make the Final they will look back on this as a defining game and one of the finest moments in their nation’s footballing history.

Needs Work

Belgium look susceptible to the counterattack and it was something Japan clearly looked to exploit heading into the game. Too often they looked too open at the back and a team with even more quality upfront (like their next opponents) may pile even more than two goals past an uncertain looking Courtois.

What’s Next

Belgium move on to face Brazil in the Quarter-Finals on Friday which promises to be a titanic battle of attacking talent and flair.

Embed from Getty Images

Goal of the Day

Inui’s perfectly placed long range strike was brilliant but it’s hard to go past Chadli’s decisive goal that sent his nation into history with just seconds to go. It was a sweeping counterattack with pace and most importantly precision that saw just 10 seconds elapse between the time the ball left Courtois’ gloves and when it hit the back of the net. Will go down as an all time great World Cup goal with brilliant build up play from Kevin De Bruyne and Meunier.

Miss of the Day

Hazard missed a brilliant opportunity to bring Belgium level just seconds after Japan’s first goal when his close range shot cannoned off the post but it was soon to be eclipsed by Romelu Lukaku. The big striker’s missed header from right in front just past the hour mark would’ve given him recurring nightmares had the Red Devils not turned things around.

SHARE
Living and studying in Newcastle. Pretty obsessed with football. Newcastle Jets and Chelsea FC fan