Dark horses Belgium sent a stern message to the rest of World Cup contenders when they battled from two goals down to beat Japan 3-2 in a captivating end to end epic encounter.
Belgium’s victory was the first time in forty eight years a team has erased a two goal deficit to win a knock out game at the global showpiece-Germany were the last to do it in 1970.
Substitute Nacer Chadli slotted home the winning goal with virtually the last kick of the game, completing a devastating counter attack. Japan’s record goal scorer Keisuke Honda’s corner kick was picked up Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois who found Kevin de Bruyne. The Manchester City playmaker ran sixty yards before releasing Thomas Mounier, whose cut back was converted by Chadli to break Japanese hearts.
After a tentative, goalless first half in which Belgium created the clearer goal scoring chances and Japan were reduced to sporadic attacks, Blue Samurai burst into life.
The Asian giants took a surprise lead when Genki Haraguchi outpaced Jan Vertoghen and powered an angled drive past Courtois.
The Europeans almost responded right from the kick off but skipper Eden Hazard’s shot cannoned off the upright. Japan then endured a period of sustained pressure.
Blue Samurai were dangerous in the break throughout and they took a 2-0 lead when Takashi Inui exchanged passes with Shinji Kagawa before shooting hard and low past Courtois.
Martinez reacted by throwing on Marouane Fellaini and Chadli. Both had impressed in Belgium’s Group H victory over England and they once again came to their team’s rescue.
Fellaini was on hand to head home the equalizer minutes after Vertoghen atoned for his defensive lapse by drawing his team back into the contest with a looping header.
The prize for Belgium’s epoch making victory is a mouthwatering quarter final tie with Brazil on Friday, July 6.