Japanese hearts were broken by an injury-time winner as Belgium came from 0-2 down to snatch victory in the round of 16.
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.
A great World Cup upset was avoided from the moment Martinez ditched his purist principles on 65 minutes, utilising a power play through replacements Fellaini and Chadli.
The key takeaway for Belgium will be the indefatigable spirit on show. Rumours of splits in the camp between Flemish and French speakers, plus an explosive mixture of egos, have bedevilled this ‘Golden Generation’.
Selflessness, exhibited most by striker Romelu Lukaku, is a positive takeaway from a disquieting night.
Belgium will now play favourites Brazil in the next stage.
Hosts Russia beating Spain on penalties to secure their place in the quarter-finals is the Hublot World Cup Moment of the Day
The tournament in Russia is throwing up all sorts of surprises and none bigger than the unfancied host nation knocking out tournament favourites Spain.
Fernando Hierro’s chance of joining the ranks of the great and successful interim bosses went up in smoke on Sunday as his heavily favoured Spain side crashed out on penalties to World Cup hosts Russia in the round of 16.
Spain dominated the game but were held to a 1-1 draw over 90 minutes and extra time, with the temporary head coach left devastated as he failed to deliver the expected win
In dropping Iniesta, Hierro made a slight tweak to Spain’s usual 4-3-3 formation. Marco Asensio’s inclusion made Spain’s set-up more a nominal 4-2-3-1 on the day. In theory, this should have meant more naturally attacking players for Spain’s midfield to pass to. It didn’t quite work that way. If anything, this was a game crying out for someone like Cesc Fabregas or Juan Mata, and there was nothing Hierro could have done about their absence.
Again, all people will remember is the call to drop Iniesta. It takes serious guts to make a call like that, right or wrong. What will go against Hierro is that he made the decision and then Spain lost, which means it’s all anyone will talk about. And given that the man Hierro entrusted to replace Iniesta, Asensio, had little impact on the game, minus serving up the free-kick for Sergei Ignashevich’s own goal, critics will wonder what purpose the decision served.
Russia now progress to the quarter-finals where they’ll meet Croatia, who squeaked passed Denmark on penalties.
We’re getting down to the nitty gritty in Russia now with the dust firmly settled on the group stage action, attention now turns to the knockout stage where there’s little margin for error.
Saturday 30th June
France 4 – 3 Argentina
Uruguay 2 – 1 Portugal
Sunday 1st July
Spain 1 – 1 Russia
Croatia 1 – 1 Denmark
Penalty heroics from both, but which #ChampionPerformance was best? A: Igor Akinfeev B: Danijel Subasic Tell us your favourite and follow @cleararabia for a chance to win. At the end of every week, we'll be picking one lucky winner to receive tickets to watch a game at Kickers Dubai! #BeYourOwnChampion
Monday 2nd July
Brazil 2 – 0 Mexico
Belgum 3 – 2 Japan
Tuesday 3rd July
Sweden 1 – 0 Switzerland
Colombia 1 – 1 England (England win 4 – 3 on penalties)
Friday 6th July
Uruguay 0 -2 France
Brazil 1 – 2 Belgium
Saturday 7th July
Sweden 0 – 2 England
Russia 2 – 2 Croatia
Two goalscoring defenders. But who had the best #ChampionPerformance? A: Harry Maguire B: Domagoj Vida Tell us your favourite and follow @cleararabia for a chance to win. At the end of every week, we'll be picking one lucky winner to receive tickets to watch a game at Kickers Dubai! #BeYourOwnChampion
Tuesday 10th July
France 1 – 0 Belgium
Wednesday 11th July
Croatia 2 – 1 England (AET)
Saturday 14th July
Belgium 2 – 0 England
Sunday 15th July
France 4 – 2 Croatia