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Last-gasp goal sends Belgium to last eight

Update: July, 03/2018 - 07:35
Yuto Nagatomo (right) of Japan and Thomas Meunier of Belgium challenge for the ball during the first half of a World Cup round-of-16 match between the two countries in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, on July 2, 2018. – Kyodo Photo
Viet Nam News

ROSTOV-ON-DON — Belgium staged a comeback at the Rostov Arena on Monday evening when two goals trailed behind Japan, sealing the victory with a last-gasp goal which sent them to the last eight.

Japan, who led for more than 20 minutes, was persistent and went very close to making history by winning their first ever World Cup knockout game.

This is the first time a team who had been trailing 2-0 won the last 16 clash since 1970, with two substitutes saved the most prolific team in group stage.

The goal was crisp and the process fluent. The goalkeeper of Belgium Thibaut Courtois threw the ball to Kevin De Bruyne, who dribbled all the way to the Japanese half before passing to Thomas Meunier on the right.

The defender from Paris Saint-Germain sent a low cross. Romelu Lukaku dummied while Nacer Chadli prodded the ball in. The goal drew deafening cheers from more than 41,400 spectators, and then the finishing whistle signaled an end of the intensive match.

Chadli was summoned from the bench after the stroke of an hour along with Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini.

The Japanese took the lead quickly after the beginning of the second half as a result of counterattack.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen failed to block a pass from the distance to Genki Haraguchi, who drove the ball into the bottom corner.

The only remaining Asian team soon doubled the advantage four minutes later, Shinji Kagawa, midfielder in Borussia Dortmund, delivered the ball to Takashi Inui, with the latter lashing it into the far corner from about 20 meters away.

They nearly had a third goal before substitutions from Belgium, which was cleared by Courtois from close range.

The Red Devils looked shambolic for a moment, but the redeeming Vertonghen once more rekindle hope in the 69th minute.

From the left of the box he nodded at the ball, seeing it fly past goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima into the far top corner.

The thrilled Belgians mustered up their efforts. Four minutes later, they had a shot over the bar.

When people felt a pity for the miss, the real leveler came. Captain Eden Hazard who has scored two goals in previous games clipped the ball to Fellaini, who comfortably drove in the header.

As time passing by, they grew into the game. Chadli, receiving from Meunier, attempted another header, while Lukaku followed, forcing Kawashima into a double-save.

The Japanese missed a potential finisher in stoppage time, a dropping free-kick by Keisuke Honda from more than 36 meters away.

Courtois made a brave save. A few minutes later, however, Belgium proved that they were still unbeaten in all their games, along with Croatia and Uruguay.

Nobody was able to break the deadlock in the first half, although both had some very good chances.

The Japanese had their first shot immediately after the opening whistle from Kagawa. Then the Belgians took a temporary control of the tempo. Following Axel Witsel’s a deflected shot in the 16th minute came a corner.

Hazard drove it to the middle but strong defense of the Japanese forced him to give up. A great chance came before the half-hour mark, when Lukaku, who has scored 17 in his last 11 games, received a cross from Dries Mertens on the right.

But he fell off. The net, for a few seconds, were unguarded, but nobody managed to send the ball in. Although Belgium blew away a couple of chances, they reached the quarter-final for the third time, and will face Brazil who just beat Mexico. — XINHUA

 

Supporters of Belgium cheer ahead of a World Cup round-of-16 match against Japan in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, on July 2, 2018. Kyodo Photo

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