Japan did not expect the kind of counterattack Belgium orchestrated after the Asian giants had taken a two-goal lead in the round of 16 match of FIFA World Cup 2018 at Rostov Arena on Monday. Belgium fought back to win 3-2 and book a quarter-final berth against Brazil on Friday.
Belgium in fact, became the first team since West Germany in 1970 to come from behind and win a World Cup knockout game.
The Belgians threw caution to the wind to reach the World Cup quarter-finals as substitute Nacer Chadli scored in the dying seconds against Japan to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The distraught Japanese, who went 2-0 up with goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui early in the second half, fell to the turf after Chadli poked the ball home from Thomas Meunier’s cross four minutes into added time at the Rostov Arena.
Belgium, who had taken a conservative approach to the game, got back into contention with late goals by Jan Vertonghen and substitute Marouane Fellaini before Chadli struck.
And that stunning late assault, minutes after Japan were soaring high and dreaming of a quarter-final berth, was too much too handle for the 61st-ranked team.
“We wanted to win it. Our team is strong enough and against Belgium we could at least match them, I believed. There were different plans in my mind and of course we started off very well but at the end, right at the end, to have conceded a goal like that was not expected,” said Japan coach Akira Nishino.
“When we were 2-0 up and I didn’t change my players, I really wanted to score another goal and we did have opportunities. We were to some extent, controlling the ball and controlling the game, but at that point, Belgium upped their game when they really had to.
“At that point, when the free-kick and corner-kick were taken, we wanted to decide and finish the match. Of course at that point I thought we might go to extra-time but I did not expect that kind of super counter-attack and my players didn’t expect that in a few seconds the ball would be carried into our half and it would decide the match.”
Belgium faced an embarrassing exit but finally clicked to become the first team to win a World Cup knockout game from two goals down since West Germany beat England 3-2 after extra time in 1970.
However, there was a lot of praise for Japan on social media. The Asian side won respect and admiration for their gutsy fight against one of the best teams in the world.
Belgium will now play Brazil in the quarter-final in Kazan on Friday.
News credit : Indiatoday