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Belgium snatches 3-2 win over Japan to set up Brazil clash

Neymar shines as Brazil beats Mexico to reach World Cup quarter-final

By Thomson Reuters Foundation - Jul 03,2018 - Last updated at Jul 03,2018

Belgium’s midfielder Nacer Chadli celebrates after scoring against Japan during the 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match in Rostov-On-Don on Monday (AFP photo by Odd Andersen)

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Belgium threw caution to the wind to reach the World Cup quarter-finals as substitute Nacer Chadli scored in the dying seconds against Japan to snatch a 3-2 comeback win on Monday and set up a clash with five-time champions Brazil. 

The distraught Japanese, 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.

“That’s what happens in the World Cup. It was a test of character and a test of the team. It tells you everything about this group of players,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

One of the most exciting teams of the group phase, Belgium 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. 

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 turning a 3-4-3 formation into a more conservative 5-2-3 system. 

 

Neymar barged his way into the World Cup limelight with a goal, an assist and another helping of histrionics as Brazil roared into the quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over Mexico on Monday that inflicted a seventh straight last-16 exit on the central Americans.

The PSG forward was both architect and executioner for Brazil, sliding home in the second half and then teeing up Roberto Firmino late on, but he also writhed on the floor, seemingly in agony, after Mexico’s Miguel Layun had made slight contact with his ankle.

That should not overshadow his generally positive display however, as the five-times champions beat an otherwise stubborn Mexico, whose World Cup began with such promise with a victory over champions Germany, but ended in familiar fashion in the first knockout round.

It was the seventh World Cup running that Brazil has reached the last eight, where it will now face Belgium, while Mexico has not made it to that stage since it hosted the tournament in 1986.

Mexico, which enjoyed an enviable recent record against Brazil having won seven of their previous 15 matches against them, were a threat on the counter in the first half but then faded without ever really being put to the sword.

Brazil kept clean sheets in seven of their previous eight games, it was never going to commit men forward and allow Mexico to pick them off on the counter in the same way that Germany did in the group stage.

A glaring spotlight had been on Neymar after his opening three performances saw him miss a litany of chances, frequently squander possession and spend far too long on the turf.

Yet, he answered a number of questions with his performance and a decisive finish early in the second half from a move that he had started himself.

Minutes after the restart Brazil took the lead in exquisite fashion with Neymar starting and ending the move.

He darted across the edge of the area before a perfect backheel released Willian, whose low cross fizzed into the danger area where Neymar slid in to turn the ball home.

Brazil had to wait until the 88th minute to put the match to bed when Neymar was the architect, crossing for Firmino to tap the ball home.

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