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In a great footballing spectacle, Belgium win match, Japan hearts. FT 3-2

Japan fail to advance from Round of 16 despite taking a 2-0 lead after Belgium scored thrice to win by a one-goal margin to enter the quarterfinals where they will meet Brazil.

BS Web team 

Belgium vs Japan

Free-scoring Belgium take on last remaining Asian team Japan in the match today at Rostov Arena. The winner will face Brazil who defeated Mexico 2-0 in the match, courtesy a goal and assist by captain Neymar.

Full-time report: Japan paid the price for going after their dreams of advancing, for the first time, to the quarter-finals of a World Cup. They were so near too, after taking a 2-0 lead by the 53rd minute at the Rostov Arena. And when Belgium pulled by the two goals, Japan, with a Samurai-spirit pushed forward eyeing to create history. And history was created, when Belgium started a counter and took benefit of lack of men in the Japanese half to win it by the skin of teeth, thus becoming the first team to come from two goals down to win a World Cup knock-out tie since West Germany against England in 1970. Belgium have advanced to the quarters and will face Brazil next.

Belgium started in a 3-4-3 and many senior players returned to the starting line-up from their game against England. Japan lined up in a 4-2-3-1.

Japan started brightly and Shinzi Kagawa had an attempt in the very first minute. The Japanese also controlled possession but after the first 10 minutes, the Belgians started controlling the proceedings and created multiple chances. In the 20th minute, Lukaku received a ball just outside the box and turned to hit a powerful shot before it was deflected by a Japanese player. Lukaku received an even better chance five minutes later when Mertens put in a delicious cross for Lukaku who ran in behind his marker but failed to connect with the ball after a slight tug from Yoshida!

Belgium's flurry of attacks continued and Vincent Kompany tried a flying volley in the 28th minute. Belgium survived a scare of their own in the 43rd minute when Courtois fumbled a shot that found Osako's toe at near post before rolling to the Belgian keeper. Although, the shot was easy Courtois fumbled it before recovering his grasp on the ball.

The first attack had everything but a goal. The second-half was anything but similar to the first-half. Japan drew first blood within three minutes of the restart of the game when Haraguchi received a long pass that Vertonghen failed to intercept and drove it low to the left and beyond Courtois to score Japan's first. Belgium nearly pulled back the goal when in the 50th minute, hit the post after receiving a ball from a cut-back with the Japanese goalkeeper rooted to his spot. The goal soon came, although for Japan, as Kagawa received the ball on the edge of the area and laid it off for Inui who arrowed his shot past Courtois into the corner to make it 2-0.

It seemed like everything Japan were doing was working, the threading passes, the crosses, and it seemed like their road to the quarter-finals was as good as certain. However, in the 69th minute, Vertonghen scored for Belgium when he headed one from an acute angle from 15-yard and the ball looped into the far corner away from the desperate dive of Japan's keeper.

Belgium made a substitution to bring in Fellaini who easily towered over the Japanese. The Manchester United midfielder used this to his advantage when he scored with a header from Hazard's left-wing cross in the 74th minute. With only minutes remaining and the dream so close, the Japanese put most of their men forward and went for the glory in the injury time only for Courtois to catch a corner and roll the ball out to De Bruyne. The midfielder carried it to halfway and passed to Meunier whose low cross was excellently dummied by Lukaku, leaving Chadli with a tap-in.

The Japanese broke down after the match and receiving praise across the world for their positive approach towards the game. One of the admirers was the manager of the winning team, Belgium's Roberto Martinez who said the Japanese played "the perfect game". Despite everything though, the Japanese grit, ambition, and skill, it's Belgium who have advanced to the quarter-finals and while they did concede two goals, the fantastic comeback should up their morale. As for Japan, the sun has set on this empire.

Live updates:

Minute 85
-- Kawashima makes a brilliant double save!! First at the near post from a corner and then off a Lukaku header in the centre.

Minute 83-- Kagawa plays the ball to Honda, bursting deep into the penalty area, but Kompany throws himself at the ball and gets in the way of the shot.

Minute 80-- Substitution for Japan: Shibasaki out Honda in

Belgium comes backMinute 74 (GOAL!!) -- Fellaini the substitute scores with a header from Hazard's left-wing cross! 2-Japan 2! This aspect of the match had been much talked about before it even began. The height difference between the players of the two teams and this has made an impact.

Minute 69 (GOAL!!) -- Vertonghen scores for Belgium. He heads one from an acute angle from 15-yard and the ball loops into the far corner away from the desperate dive of Japan's keeper. BEL 1-JPN 2

Belgium make double substitution: Mertens and Carrasco off; Fellaini and Chadli on

Minute 66 -- What Samurai spirit has entered the Japanese? They nearly get their third as Sakai runs down the right and sends in a low cross. Osako takes a first-time shot but Courtois saves it.

Minute 62 -- Lukaku misplaces his header!! The Manchester United striker receives a fantastic cross from Meunier, outjumps his markers but glances his header wide!

Japan opens the score

Minute 52 (GOAL!!) -- Innui scores!! and Japan lead 2-0. Kagawa receives the ball on the edge of the area and lays it off for Inui who arrows his shot past Courtois into the corner!

Minute 50 -- hits the post and receiving a ball from a cut-back! The goalkeeper was rooted.

Minute 48 (GOAL!!) - Japan lead! Haraguchi receives a long pass that Vertonghen failed to intercept and drives it low to the left and beyond Courtois to score Japan's first!! Belgium 0-Japan 1!

Second half begins.

Half-time report: It's all square between Belgium and Japan at the Rostov Arena with none of the team finding the net. Although, both teams got close to nicking one in but it just didn't happen. The football has been attacking and attractive, albeit without a goal to show for it.

Japan started brightly and Shinzi Kagawa had an attempt in the very first minute. The Japanese also controlled possession but after the first 10 minutes, the Belgians started controlling the proceedings and created multiple chances. In the 20th minute, Lukaku received a ball just outside the box and turned to hit a powerful shot before it was deflected by a Japanese player. Lukaku received an even better chance five minutes later when Mertens put in a delicious cross for Lukaku who ran in behind his marker but failed to connect with the ball after a slight tug from Yoshida!

Belgium's flurry of attacks continued and Vincent Kompany tried a flying volley in the 28th minute. Belgium survived a scare of their own in the 43rd minute when Courtois fumbled a shot that found Osako's toe at near post before rolling to the Belgian keeper. Although, the shot was easy Courtois fumbled it before recovering his grasp on the ball.

The goal looks right around the corner, we just aren't sure for whom.

Minute 43-- Courtois fumbles and almost lets one in! Nagatomo's shot goes to Osako at near post and hits his toe. The ball rolls to Courtois who fumbles it before picking it up again before it rolls beyond the goal-line.

Minute 38 -- Japan have defended resolutely. But with the attacking quality Belgium have and the number of chances they are creating, one wonders how long the Japanese can keep it up.

Minute 35-- Fantastic block by Yoshida off a Hazard shot. The ball falls to Witsel who takes an attempt too but it flies over the crossbar.

Minute 30 -- Courtois stands tall! Japan work a nice move which Nagatomo crosses from the left and Inui puts his head to inside the box but it flies straight at Courtois.

Minute 28 -- Kompany nearly gets the opener. Belgium take a short corner which is worked into the far post by De Bruyne. Kompany tries a flying volley but his attempt is off the target.

Minute 26 -- Japan have been left with the task of defending in the last few minutes. Hazard receives the ball in front of the box on the left and sends in a bullet which the Japanese keeper punches away for a corner. Woah!

Minute 20-- Belgium has started to turn it on. Lukaku receives a ball just outside the box and turns to hit a powerful shot before it's deflected by a Japanese player. Samurai effort! Kevin de Bruyne takes the free-kick but it's cleared.

Minute 15 -- Hazard picks up the ball and drives down the middle of the field, with six blue shirts around him, who eventually force him to turn back. Witsel then lets one fly from outside the box but a Japanese defender knicks it over the bar for a corner. Nothing comes of the set-piece.

Minute 6 -- Japan start strongly. They have now twice tried to launch an attack from the left wing. And although they have reached the final third on both occasions, nothing has come of it yet.

Minute 1: First minute, first attempt. Kagawa fancies a shot with his left foot but the shot is wide.

Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepppppp!!.. And.. kick-off!

Confirmed line-ups:

Belgium (3-4-3): Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen, Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco, Mertens, Lukaku, Eden Hazard.

Substitutes: Mignolet, Vermaelen, Fellaini, Thorgan Hazard, Tielemans, Januzaj, Dembele, Boyata, Batshuayi, Chadli, Dendoncker, Casteels.

Japan (4-2-3-1): Kawashima, Hiroki Sakai, Yoshida, Shoji, Nagatomo, Hasebe, Shibasaki, Haraguchi, Kagawa, Inui, Osako.

Substitutes: Higashiguchi, Ueda, Honda, Endo, Okazaki, Usami, Muto, Yamaguchi, Oshima, Makino, Gotoku Sakai, Nakamura.

Belgium vs Japan Line-up

Belgium vs Japan Line-up


Trivia:

-- Belgium have made 10 changes to their starting line-up against Japan - the most in a World Cup match since Spain v Saudi Arabia in World Cup 2006 (11 changes for Spain). (Source: OptaJoe)

-- The last team to come from two goals down to win a World Cup knockout round match were Germany against England in 1970. (Source: OptaJoe)

-- This is Japan's highest ever goal tally (6) in a single World Cup tournament. (Source: OptaJoe)

-- Genki Haraguchi's goal was Japan's first ever in the World Cup knockout rounds. (Source: OptaJoe)

-- Belgium have had 26 touches in the opposition box during the first half against Japan (the most by a team before half-time in a game at the 2018 World Cup), but they have only attempted two shots on target.

Match Preview:

The Red Devils are aiming to reach their third World Cup quarter-final and equal their world finals record of four consecutive wins, set four years ago. Japan advanced from the group phase on fair play points and are intent on winning a last-16 tie for the first time ever.

Both teams have plenty of experience in their ranks. For Japan, Eiji Kawashima, Makoto Hasebe, Yuto Nagatomo and Shinji Okazaki are each set to play their 11th world finals matches. As for Belgium, the team likely to start the match against Japan will have an average of almost 70 appearances per player.

Japan lose to Poland as Bednarek scores, still enter RO16 on fair play; 0-1

Their unbeaten 22-match run – the longest in Belgium’s history – reflects the quality of a hugely talented side.

The Belgian side has the country's "golden generation" on hands but they have together failed to make something out of it in the major tournaments. With many top teams out of the competition, Belgium will fancy their chance of winning the World Cup.

ALSO READ: With World Cup trophy, Belgium's quest for free TVs for fellow countrymen

Road to the & formations --

Belgium -- The Belgians steamrolled through the group stage and accumulated maximum possible nine points from three games, scoring nine goals in the process.

Roberto Martinez left most of his first-choice players on the bench for the England match so they could rest and avoid suspensions. Even with a weakened side, the Belgians still recorded a fine win that buoyed morale even further and has put some pressure on the squad’s habitual starters. Belgium play with an attacking mindset in a 3-4-2-1 with the wing-backs moving up the pitch on every possible occasion and striker Romelu Lukaku provided with goalscoring opportunities by able playmakers in Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bryune.

Coach Roberto Martinez is set to start with a full-strength side after resting nine players, including Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, in the 1-0 win over England that saw Belgium win their group.

Japan -- Japan embarrassingly strolled through a 1-0 defeat by Poland to advance by having fewer yellow cards than Senegal while Belgium threw calculations to the winds and saw their second-string beat England’s reserve team 1-0, risking a possible quarter-final against Brazil. Japan used a 4-4-2 formation in their last group match against Poland and lost 1-0. Coach Akira Nishino is likely to revert to the 4-2-3-1 system he deployed in the win over Colombia and the draw with Senegal. Attacking midfielders Genki Haraguchi, Shinji Kagawa and Takashi Inui will have important roles to play.

The Japanese will look to attack down the flanks and their chances of success will hinge on how well they can supply Gaku Shibasaki.


A word of caution: Several players on both sides will start the game on yellow cards. A further caution in this game will see them miss the quarter-finals, should their team win, of course. Thomas Meunier, Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne, Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker are the men in question for Belgium, while Japan’s Kawashima, Hasebe, Tomoaki Makino and Takashi Inui find themselves in the same position.

Possible line-ups:

Belgium: Thibaut Courtois; Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany, Toby Alderweireld; Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Meunier; Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard; Romelu Lukaku

Japan: Eiji Kawashima; Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Gen Shoji, Yuto Nagatomo; Makoto Hasebe, Gaku Shibasaki; Genki Haraguchi, Shinji Kagawa, Takashi Inui; Yuya Osako


Team speak:

Eden Hazard has said Belgium have a new level of maturity.

"This is our time to shine, definitely. We have top players and we play as a group, especially after the win over England," the Chelsea star said. "It's in our hands, we need to give everything and see what happens... We have the same level of maturity across the team, which will make a difference this time," he said.

Hazard scores from the spot

However, he refused to look past Japan towards a potential quarter-final against Mexico or Brazil.

"We are just focused on this game. Messi and Ronaldo are out, but there are still a lot of players like me who also want to go to the final too, so let's see," said Hazard.

His views are shared by his coach Roberto Martinez.

"The opportunity of facing Japan with the mentality that the group has is a very positive moment for us," Martinez said about the match in Rostov-on-Don.

He also praised the Japanese side which beat group winners Colombia in their opening match.

"They're going to be a competitive team. They know how to hurt you in a counter-attack," he said.

"They have incredible energy, get up the pitch fast and are organised.. They are a generation with a good age and have a lot of experience, with players like (Shinji) Kagawa and (Keisuke) Honda. They know what needs to be done to win," said Martinez.

"I am not worried about the fact that Japan could take the ball away from us a lot. What matters is to neutralise their strengths and I consider the most important thing to be what you do with the ball. We won't focus on the possession," he said.

Japanese coach Akira Nishino -- who was appointed just two months before the start of the tournament -- has promised a better performance than the antics in the later stages against Poland.

"(Fans) were short-changed 10 minutes and they probably got a bit less mileage than usual out of the first 80," he said. "So I want to pay people back."

Japan centre-back Gen Shoji said: "We came here to make new history. I will face up to Romelu Lukaku tomorrow and will play against him with strong heart."

Head-to-head: Belgium and Japan have met once before at the World Cup finals when Japan were hosts in 2002. On 4 June in Saitama, Japan and Belgium drew 2-2, as Japan became the first Asian host country to play a World Cup match.

Unbeaten in 22 games, Roberto Martinez’s side can take comfort from a 1-0 victory over Japan in a friendly in Belgium last November in which their goal was scored by Romelu Lukaku.


Trivia:

-- Japan became the first team at a FIFA World Cup to benefit from the fair play rule as they advanced from the group stage ahead of Senegal.

-- By the time this match kicks off, the two teams will know their potential opponents in the quarter-finals. Brazil and Mexico meet earlier in the day for the right to face the winner of this tie in Kazan on July 6.

-- Japan are the last side remaining from the Asian Football Confederation at this tournament, after Australia, IR Iran, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia said goodbye at the conclusion of the group stage.

-- In all of World Cup history, only two teams from Asia went beyond the Round of 16. Korea Republic made it all the way to the semi-final at Korea/Japan 2002 and Korea DPR reached the quarter-final at England 1966. Japan is the only remaining Asian team in the Round of 16 at 2018.

-- One of the smallest teams in the tournament will face one of the tallest. Seven of the expected Red Devils' starting line-up are above 185cm!

-- Fifteen out of the 23 players in Japan's squad play for foreign clubs outside of the J.League. They play for clubs in Germany, Spain, England, France, Turkey and Mexico. Only goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who currently plays for Metz in France, has experience playing in the Belgian top flight, having played for Lierse SK and Standard de Liege.

First Published: Mon, July 02 2018. 17:16 IST