Belgium rallied from two goals down to equalize Japan before ripping their hearts out in the final seconds of their Round of 16 match.
Belgium was the heavy favorite over Japan, but for much of this match, the superior side was on the ropes. The Belgians stormed back after falling behind 2-0 to take the lead with seconds left to play.
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) July 2, 2018
The play was started with a heads-up play from the Belgian goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois. He rolled the ball out and kickstarted the counterattack. The Belgians could smell blood and they wanted no part of another 30 minutes against the Japanese side.
The play was incredible from the normal camera angle, but the overhead view from behind the goal is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s rare that the pivotal player in a specific play doesn’t touch the ball, but that was the case here.
Romelu Lukaku’s driving run down the middle of the field forced the Japanese defender to pinch into the middle. This opened up space on the wing. Once the ball was played back to the middle, Lukaku makes the unselfish play that many strikers would either be too selfish or not have the presence of mind to make.
The dummy allowed the ball to go straight through to Nacer Chadli for the clinical finish. It wasn’t the most difficult play for Chadli, but he did exactly what he needed to do.
What a brutal way for Japan to bow out. But they can travel back to Japan with their heads held high. They almost knocked off a superior team and they didn’t do it by hanging back and parking the bus. They attacked Belgium and beat them at their own game—well, they did for most of the game.
While the Belgians laid an egg for a majority of this game, this could be a very good sign for the Red Devils. It’s rare that a world champion team wins every game in convincing fashion. There always seems to be one or two games where they survive on pure guts and guile. Perhaps that’s exactly what happened on Monday.
But the Belgians will be tested by a greater foe in their next match. They have the honor of facing Neymar and Brazil. It should be an evenly matched contest. The winner of their quarterfinal matchup should be the favorite moving forward.