ROSTOV-ON-DON: Belgium wrote another chapter into World Cup history as they hit back from 2-0 down in the last 20 minutes to beat Japan 3-2 in the second round of the 2018 finals in Rostov-on-Don.
The Japanese players lay distraught on the pitch at the final whistle which came only seconds after Nacer Chadli had tapped in the Belgian winner following a counter-attack in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
No team has come from two goals down to win a World Cup knock-out tie since West Germany against England in 1970 – and they needed extra time to complete the job. The last such 90-minute comeback was in the 1966 quarter-finals when Portugal hit back from 3-0 down to beat North Korea 5-3 with four goals from Eusebio.
Belgium dominated the first half without scoring and then went 2-0 down soon after the interval to goals from Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui.
Jan Vertonghen, whose mistake had led to Haraguchi’s goal, pulled one back with a header in the 69th minute. Substitute Marouane Fellaini equalised five minutes later and Chadli grabbed the winner after a lightning counter-attack engineered by Kevin de Bruyne and Thomas Meunier.
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez said: “Well, that’s what happens in the World Cup. You have to congratulate Japan, they played the perfect game. They were so solid, they frustrated us, then they were clinical on the counter.
“It was a great test of the team and to win the game tells you everything about this group of players.
“In the World Cup sometimes you want to be perfect but football is about winning and the boys showed an incredible winning mentality today.