Super Belgium battled from 2-0 goals down to defeat a resilient Japan team 3-2 with a late goal from Nacer Chadli to score the winner and ensure victory and take the quarter-final berth against Brazil. Belgium showed incredible team character and quality to forge ahead. Nacer Chadli came off the bench to convert a deadly counter-attacking move from Belgium in the 93rd minute.
In the first half Japan were organised and absorbed the Belgian threat but still had the clearest chances. Belgium looked the stronger side however, they could not create real openings around the area.
Japan started the second half with a bang with a well-struck right-footed shot from Genki Haraguchi in the 48th minute and another stunner from outside the penalty area by Takashi Inui in the 52nd minute to rattle Belgian hearts and take a 2-0 lead.
Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku had two clear chances but failed to convert. However, Jan Vertonghen was having none of that as he restored hope for Belgium by making up for his error in the first goal by clawing back a beautiful header to make it 2-1.
Marouane Fellaini came in from the bench to grab a decisive header off an Eden Hazard cross from the left to draw the game level – typical Fellaini – that is why Manchester United have renewed his contract.
Questions can be raised on Belgium’s formations and team choice by Roberto Martinez, and the quality of their group gave them a false sense of security about their ability to function at the highest level as a team. Nonetheless, Martinez reacted well when his side when 2-0 down by bringing in Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini to go very direct – a change that destabilised the less physical Japanese backline.