Belgium thrashed Japan 3-2 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Minday as substitute Nacer Chadli scored in the dying seconds and set up a clash with five-time champions Brazil.
The Japanese team, who went 2-0 up with goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui early in the second half, fell to the turf after Chadli poked the ball home from Thomas Meunier’s cross four minutes into added time at the Rostov Arena.
Belgium, who had taken a conservative approach to the game, got back into contention with late goals by Jan Vertonghen and substitute Marouane Fellaini before Chadli struck.
Belgium, one of the most exciting teams of the group phase, faced an embarrassing exit but finally clicked to become the first team to win a World Cup knockout game from two goals down since West Germany beat England 3-2 after extra time in 1970.
Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ have now scored 12 goals in four games in Russia ahead of a mouthwatering last eight clash with Brazil who beat Mexico 2-0 earlier on Monday.
Both teams fought a tight midfield battle but their forwards froze in the area and Belgium’s wide players, Meunier and Yannick Carrasco, did not take risks going forward, effectively.
The Japanese were ahead soon after the break, though, when Haraguchi beat the offside trap and ran into the area to beat Courtois with a cross-shot in the 48th minute.
Japan got closest to a goal in a dull first half when Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois let the ball slip from his hands and between his legs but recovered before it crossed the line.
Belgium responded but Hazard’s shot rattled the post and Japan doubled their tally in the 52nd when Inui picked up the ball 25 metres out and fired a missile into the back of the net.
Belgium continued to push forward and both Chadli and Lukaku forced Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima into a couple of spectacular saves with powerful headers four minutes from full time.