Nacer Chadli scored with the last kick of the game as Belgium came from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in Rostov and set up a World Cup quarter-final against Brazil.
Roberto Martinez brought back his star names including Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne after resting them for the win over England but his side were tame going forward in the first half. The Japanese defended brilliantly, particularly Southampton’s Maya Yoshida, and had a couple of half chances of their own.
And the Samurai Blues took a shock lead at the start of the second period when Gaku Shibasaki sliced the Belgian defence open and Genki Haraguchi rifled the ball in coolly.
After Hazard rattled the post, Japan stunned the crowd when doubling their lead courtesy of Takashi Inui’s sublime long-range finish past a diving Thibaut Courtois.
Martinez brought on Marouane Fellaini and Chadli in the closing stages - both of whom proved to be the difference. Jan Vertonghen pulled a goal back with a looping long range header before Manchester United’s Fellaini headed in Hazard’s cross to make it 2-2.
The game was heading into extra time when Chadli tucked in Thomas Meunier’s cross to break Japanese hearts and seal a last eight tie with Brazil on Friday in Kazan.
Image credit: Getty Images
Did Belgium show they have the character to win the World Cup? After 52 minutes the Red Devils were heading out with memories of their defeat to Wales at Euro 2016 looming large. But Martinez changed things around, brought on the more direct Fellaini and Chadli and it worked to a tee. Even though Lukaku, Mertens and De Bruyne had an off night, they still managed to get over the line somehow with a mix of good fortune and slick football.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Maya Yoshida (Japan): The centre-back will have caught the attention of a lot of teams after this performance. He went toe-to-toe with Romelu Lukaku in the aerial duals and his positional sense was brilliant, he is unlucky to end up on the losing side.
Eden Hazard of Belgium is challenged by Gaku Shibasaki of Japan