By Isaac Ndou
MOSCOW: Belgium showed their World Cup intentions by coming from two goals down in the second half to seal a 3-2 victory against Japan in a last 16 encounter that was played in Rostov to progress to the quarterfinals.
Shinji Kagawa tried to give the Japanese an early lead as he produced a threatening shot in the opening minute but goalkeeper Thibaut Cortouis was up for the task.
Moments later, in-form Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku missed a chance which he was expected to bury and give Belgium the lead. Kagawa was again in the mix of things as he produced some decent work and dishes out a supply to Takashi Inui who could only round off the play with a straight header towards Cortouis.
Japan could have gone into the break with the lead after Yuto Nagatomo directed a lie cross in the box which gave Cortouis a problem as the ball got through his legs and almost found its way into the back of the net, taking the side level pegging at halftime.
Three minutes into the second half, Japan stunned Belgium through Genki Haraguchi who finished off yet another delivery from Shinji Kagawa who was a busy bee on the night and gave Japan the lead.
Eden Hazard nearly gave the perfect response but his well-curled shot hit the woodwork to deny the Belgians an equalizer. Japan yet again stunned the Red Devils with a second goal four minutes later through a rocket strike from Takashi Inui which seemed as confirmation of Belgium’s exit from the World Cup.
Belgium, however, had other plans as they pulled one back through defender Jan Vertonghen’s header in the 69th minute to make it 2-1.
The incredible happened five minutes later as Belgium were level through a header from Marouane Fellaini headed in a cross from Eden Hazard to complete their comeback and make Japan uncomfortable. Belgium kept pressing on for their winning goal and substitute Nacer Chadli headed towards goal but the keeper denied him.
Japan’s talisman Keisuke Honda then later tried to restore their lead with a free kick which gave Cortouis little problems as he dealt with the effort. Belgium shook the World as the grabbed their winner in the fourth and last minute off added time through Chali and produced the best World Cup comeback ever in history and send Japan packing.
Belgium joined France, Uruguay, Russia, Croatia and Brazil in the last 8 draw.