In the sixth game of the Round of 16 in the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, we witnessed an epic encounter in Belgium vs Japan. The two teams put on an exhibition of footballing spectacle with the final scoreline of 3-2.
The winner of this contest was scheduled to face Brazil in the Quarter-Finals. The jostling for that spot between these two teams was a joyous sight to behold.
But, the game didn't start that dramatically. Both teams knew the stakes were extremely high for either team and the need to deliver as well.
First 45 minutes of the game were dominated by the European side. They oozed confidence and made incisive decisions along the way. As a matter of fact, it was apparent, that if Belgium keeps up this energy, the ominous signs for Japan would only increase.
It appeared that Japan was scared of being thrashed, as they were coming off a loss against Poland.
Regardless, they still managed to hang on in the first half to see it go goalless.
Furthermore, the story of the second half was one to behold. Within the first five minutes of the game being resumed, The Samurai Blue struck.
A mistake from veteran defender Jon Vertonghen saw him mis-control the ball. Genki Haraguchi picked up the pieces and scored a clean goal past Thibaut Courtois to leave the entire world in shock. This happened against the run of play, and it the Asian side could've held on from here, another fairytale story would've been written.
They doubled the advantage through Takeshi Inui in the 52nd minute, and this time they deserved it. The Belgium bench, their managers, and the fans had a similar expression to that of the players. Disbelief would be the word that'd describe the feeling if one saw the scoreline between these two teams.
It was time for them to regain consciousness and fight back.
Coach Roberto Martinez made some tactical changes to the side, and it was proved to effective.
Veronghen, who was at fault for the first goal his team conceded, pulled one back for his team. He headed the ball from afar, and Japanese goalkeeper couldn't judge the flight of it.
The comeback was on for the side, as they rushed again and again at the Japanese defence. An equaliser seemed inevitable, and it came from the header of substitute Marouane Fellaini. The Manchester United man has a knack for scoring goals at crucial junctures, and this ability has proven him to be one of the useful substitutes to have.
All the signs pointed to yet another extra-time in the Round of 16, as only a few seconds were left in the game.
However, Belgium had other plans. They countered immediately from a poor Japanese corner. Breaking at pace, they caught their opponents napping, and the ball that was drilled in the box by Thomas Meunier was met by another substitute Nacer Chadli in the 95th minute. The whole stadium exploded as yet again football had created a dramatic spectacle that no other sport that can ever conjure.
Even though Japan bowed out in the Round of 16, this performance of theirs should go down as one of the best of all time.
South American giants will now have to face a charged up Belgium side, that has proven it can face adversity, and still come out at top.