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Belgium vs Japan
2018 FIFA World Cup Cup, Round of 16
Japan started off well, pressing high up the pitch and coming away with the first two chances of the game.
However it didn’t take long for Belgium to take control of the game and push forward.
Japan defended well but a patient Belgian side eventually found their way past them and came close to scoring on a number of occasions.
Japan survived wave after wave of pressure and slowly started to re-assert themselves in the game.
The Belgians continued to control the majority of the ball but Japan were giving them problems on the counter.
Japan also came closest to scoring, after Belgian keeper Thaibaut Courtois nearly produced the howler of the tournament before quickly recovering.
In the end the first half ended scoreless, but in the second half it was a different story.
A through-ball wasn’t properly dealt with by the Belgian defence, allowing Genki Haraguchi to pounce and put Japan ahead.
Eden Hazard nearly responded right way but his effort rocketing off the post.
Then just moments later Belgium were rocked to their core, as Takashi Inui found space to hit one from outside the box.
He fired his effort past the keeper to put Japan up but two and Belgium had just under 40 minutes to recover.
They tried to push forward but Japan was defending well and looking dangerous on the counter.
But with 20 minutes to go Jan Vertonghen produced a moment of magic via an astonishing header.
The keeper punched the ball away but Vertonghen stood his ground and calmly headed the ball over the keeper and into the net from a tough angle to get his side back in the game.
Then shortly after, substitute Marouane Fellaini did the job was sent on to do, getting on the end of Hazard’s cross to bring Belgium back level.
It was end-to-end football from there, with both sides pushing forward looking for a winner.
Japan came close right at the death, but they were the victims of their own attack.
In the 95th minute a Belgian counter-attack saw Chadli come on the end of some great attacking play and place the ball past the keeper to break Japanese hearts.
After an astonishing, highly entertaining game of football, Belgium came back from two goals down to win 3-2 with the final kick of the game.
Belgium will be looking to book a place in the quarterfinals when they take on Japan. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4am AEST.
It’s been a World Cup full of surprises – and Japan’s progression into the Round of 16 is certainly one of them.
The Blue Samurai will be inspired by Russia’s performance against tournament-favourites Spain, which saw the 2010 champions eliminated via a penalty shootout.
Despite a good start to their campaign, Japan scraped through to the Last 16.
After losing 1-nil to Poland in the final group stage game, it looked like their tournament would be over.
But twist of fate saw them go through ahead of Senegal on FIFA’s ‘fair play’ rules.
They’re the first side to go through to the knockout stage via that system.
The game against Poland did also see them rest six key players, who should all return ready for the biggest game their lives.
Belgium have become many people’s picks to win the competition.
They kept their momentum going by defeating England 1-nil in the final game of the group stages, securing top spot on the table.
The Belgians are also one of two sides who have won all of their cup games so far. The other being Croatia, who will play Russia in the Quarter-Finals after being Denmark on penalties.
Romelu Lukaku didn’t have a great season at Manchester United but he’s been on form for his nation. He’s scored four goals this tournament and will be chasing the Golden Boot.
England’s Harry Kane currently leads the tally with five.
We’ve seen plenty of already surprises this tournament and if Japan can stay focused and drag the game to penalties they may be able to get a result.
However, Belgium have Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, two players who can carve open any defence in the world.
Expect Belgium to book their place in the Quarter-Finals.
Belgium 2 – 0 Japan
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 4am AEST.