Published: Tue, July 03, 2018
Sport | By Floyd Cook

Belgium beat Japan 3-2 to reach quarter-finals

Belgium beat Japan 3-2 to reach quarter-finals

Japan are aiming to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

Despite being only 25 years old, the powerfully-built Lukaku already has 40 worldwide goals - including four so far in Russian Federation. Despite that, Japan were far from thrilling, but still managed to grind out a 2-1 win after their opponents got exhausted.

Martinez's side defeated Japan 1-0 in a home friendly last November after a goal by Romelu Lukaku, who has claimed four in Russian Federation with two against both Tunisia and Panama in the group stages.

Mertens admitted he had not paid too much attention to Japan's matches so far because "I don't like to watch so much soccer", but he knows the Asian team's big names, and knows they must be respected.

Japan failed to impress in their qualifying campaign, winning a weak group but dropping ten points in the process.

However, Martinez warned that Japan, who scraped into the last 16 because they had a better disciplinary record than Senegal, could hurt his team. Running out the final ten minutes of the game by playing the ball between themselves at the back led to boos from the crowd and widespread condemnation from pundits and fans all over. The result saw both sides progress at Algeria's expense.

On Monday, Japan lost its knockout game by being outplayed late against Belgium. "Belgium may feel that they are just starting the tournament".

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Then Inui - operating on the other flank and who has just signed for Spanish side Betis - showed what he can do with a magnificent strike from outside the area after being teed up by Shinji Kagawa.

Kompany, Belgium's veteran defensive talisman, comes in for Dedryck Boyata and will be partnered by Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in a back three while playmaker Eden Hazard retains the captaincy.

Japan led 2-0 on early second-half goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui in Rostov, Russia.

Belgium's Marouane Fellaini celebrates scoring his equalising goal. This puts him level with Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, and one behind England striker Harry Kane in the race to finish top scorer at the World Cup. However, Peter van der Heyden denied Japan a shock victory, beating the offside trap before deftly chipping the ball over goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki.

In that case it was Lionel Messi's Argentina knocked them out, and there was no shame in losing to eventual finalists and a side that almost became champions. Defeating Colombia was an outstanding achievement, even though the Japanese played most of the match against ten men.

What a World Cup this has been so far. Still, it's a test that they ought to pass.

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