Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Belgium comes from two goals down to break Japanese hearts

Belgium's Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring his side's fourth goal during the group G match between Belgium and Tunisia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow Russia Saturday Eden Hazard captains what many consider to be Belgium's golden generation Credit AP
Domingo Copeland | 03 July, 2018, 00:39

The most free-scoring team in the 2018 Fifa World Cup group stage, Belgium will aim to reach only their third quarter-final in the history of the greatest show on earth when they take on Japan, the lone Asian representative left in the tournament, at Rostov Arena in Russia Monday.

And Belgium's reserves then won a meeting with a similarly fringe England side 1-0 to seal top spot and a 100 per cent record.

Getty Romelu Lukaku rejoins the lineup as Belgium take on Japan. Belgium won all of their group games while Japan needed a stroke of luck in the form of Federation Internationale de Football Association fair play rules where their fewer yellow cards helped them leapfrog Senegal.

Kick-off is 7pm Nigerian time.

Japan held a 2-0 lead with less than 25 minutes to play, but Belgium scored twice in a six-minute span to tie it.

Jan Vertonghen brought it back to 2-1 with a looping header.

Romelu Lukaku set the stage on fire with four goals from just two matches in the round-robin stage before sitting out for the England game with an injury.

Teams such as Brazil or Mexico could await them in the quarterfinals, while France or Uruguay loom further down the line.

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MF Hotaru Yamaguchi, N/R - Was unable to have much impact after coming on, though was caught on Belgium's late counter. "I don't think there will be big surprises when we face each other", Martinez had said on the eve of the match.

Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese player to score at three World Cups when he netted a vital equaliser in the 2-2 draw against Senegal, which ultimately proved decisive in Japan's quest to qualify for the last 16.

Japan coach Akira Nishino returned to the starting line-up fielded against Colombia and Senegal, after changing six players in the last match against Poland. The victor will face Brazil, who knocked out Mexico earlier today with a 2-0 victory.

"When you are in the World Cup it's about achieving your aim so it's not something to criticise; the opposite". My image of Belgium is their three full-backs and two defensive midfielders, and two very attacking wingers.

Japan is the last remaining team in the World Cup not from Europe or South America.

Meanwhile, Japan expect to have skipper Makoto Hasebe back in midfield and both wide man Takashi Inui and striker Yuya Osako could also get starts.

Substitute Marouane Fellaini got the equaliser for the Red Devils 16 minutes before time, leaping the highest inside the box to power home a header from Eden Hazard's cross.

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