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Belgium dig deep to edge out Japan

Belgium dig deep to edge out Japan

Belgiums team of stars demonstrated their strength of character by coming back from two goals down to claim victory over Japan in a wild game at the Rostov Arena. The manner of the win will surely fill the side with confidence as they now advance to the quarter-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia where they will face none other than Brazil.

Following a tight first half in which both defences had the upper hand, barring the odd minor lapse in concentration, Japan took a commanding lead with two goals at the start of the second half. Genki Haraguchi put the Blues ahead with an angled finish in the 48th minute, before Takashi Inui fired in a wonderful long-range strike for his second goal of the tournament.

Nobody doubted the ability of Roberto Martinezs side, but here was a true test of their resolve. After a frantic few minutes, the manager opted for a change in approach with the introduction of the 6'4" danger man Marouane Fellaini, and the tactical shift paid dividends. In the 69th minute, Jan Vertonghens looping header threw Les Diables Rouges a lifeline, before Fellaini himself headed home the equaliser five minutes later.

As the game progressed, extra time seemed an inevitability. Yet Nacer Chadli had other ideas, the substitute applying the finishing touch to a textbook counter-attack in the fourth minute of stoppage time to send the Belgium fans into delirium.

Team Reporter Analysis
Simon Massart, with Belgium Follow: Twitter Facebook
Until Verthongens goal, Belgium had failed to demonstrate the mental resilience demanded by this sort of match at a World Cup. But from that moment on, with the Japanese perhaps paying dearly for their earlier exertions, the Belgians upped their game. The team went through a rollercoaster of emotions, right up until the wonderful counter-attack that paved the way to victory. And then came relief.

Gallery: Belgium - Japan
1 / 17 Gallery: Belgium - Japan
1 / 17 Gallery: Belgium - Japan
Gallery: Belgium - Japan
1 / 17 Belgium players applauds fans after their victory over Japan

02 Jul 2018

ROSTOV-ON-DON, RUSSIA - JULY 02: Belgium players applauds fans after their victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Belgium and Japan at Rostov Arena on July 2, 2018 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Photo by Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Getty Images

Belgium players applauds fans after their victory over Japan

02 Jul 2018

ROSTOV-ON-DON, RUSSIA - JULY 02: Belgium players applauds fans after their victory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Belgium and Japan at Rostov Arena on July 2, 2018 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Photo by Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Getty Images

Belgium players applauds fans after their victory over Japan Belgium players applauds fans after their victory over Japan