Nacer Chadli rose from the substitutes’ bench to complete Belgium‘s comeback from 2-0 down against Japan in the dying embers of injury time and enter World Cup 2018’s quarter-finals with an epic 3-2 win.
The Samurai Blue emerged from a goalless first half to be two-goals ahead by 52 minutes through Genki Haraguchi’s breakaway and the outstanding Takashi Inui’s piledriver. A first entry into the last eight seemed set from that point.
But Roberto Martinez’s hotly tipped side weren’t done. Headers from Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini levelled things up by 74 minutes at Rostov Arena, before Chadli swept in a 94th-minute counter-attack to become the first nation since West Germany in 1970 to comeback from 2-0 behind in the World Cup’s knockouts.
Belgium will now play favourites Brazil in the next stage.
Croatia recovered from the concession of World Cup 2018’s quickest goal to draw 1-1 with Denmark at the end of extra time and then reach the quarter-finals on penalties through Ivan Rakitic’s clincher.
Danish centre-back Mathias Jorgensen wrote his name into the record books within a minute when his low shot inside a packed penalty box squeezed in. But Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic scuffed home on four minutes after the ball fortuitously rebounded off Denmark midfielder Andreas Christensen’s face.
Few chances of note then followed at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium as the promise from an exciting first half quickly ebbed away. Penalties seemed a given until Luka Modric picked a pass of rare genius and Mathias Jorgensen felled Ante Robic, but – watched on by legendary father Peter – goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel saved the former-mentioned’s effort from 12 yards on 116 minutes.
The shootout witnessed a pair of penalty misses apiece, before Nicolai Jorgensen’s third errant effort for the Danes was decisively punished by Rakitic.
Croatia’s reward is a last-eight tie against hosts Russia.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said he was “concerned” over midfielder James Rodriguez after he injured himself in the 1-0 win over Senegal that helped them qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup.
The Bayern Munich star was instrumental in leading Colombia to a 3-0 win over Poland, after just playing a cameo role in the 2-1 defeat to Japan.
In Samara on Thursday, however, James sustained a blow inside 31 minutes that meant Pekerman had to take him off, while also losing one of his key players.
But Rodriguez could be an absentee when Colombia take on England in the last 16 phase.
“I’m extremely concerned, it’s a very tough situation for my team,” said Argentine Pekerman.
“I didn’t want to talk about this in a conference, because it risks overshadowing everything else that’s happened.
“But I can say it’s not a comfortable situation for us. At the moment we don’t have information, I can’t confirm or deny.
“He trained normally until yesterday as always, he stayed on afterwards to practise free-kicks and penalties as he does.
“He was fully fit… but right now I don’t know where he stands. We do hope we’ll hear good news once he’s gone for his check-up.”