Belgium fails to break down Japan, goalless at half-time

Belgium had a host of chances to score in the first half, but it let itself down with poor finishing and efforts from long range.

Romelu Lukaku had the chance of half, but couldn't get his right boot to the cross from Dries Mertens.   -  AFP

Belgium failed to make the most of the possession and numerous goal-scoring chances it had, to score in the first half half that surprisingly finished goalless. Japan might consider itself fortunate to be level, albeit it had chances of its own to take the lead.

Such was Belgium's dominance that it could potentially have even got out of Japan's sight by half-time. As it stood, however, Japan had as much of a chance as Belgium to progress to the quarterfinal.

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The chance of the half fell to Romelu Lukaku on 25 minutes, when, from just yards out, the Manchester United striker failed to get his right boot to a quality cross from the right from Dries Mertens. The pressure from Maya Yoshida probably impeded Lukaku, who, however, will have expected to score from that distance and given the quality of the ball in.

With Japan defending deep in its own box, Belgium's attackers were often forced to shoot from outside the area. Axel Witsel's twin attempts from outside the box failed to even test Kawashima, while Eden Hazard's left-footed drive from the edge of the area was at a comfortable height for the Japanese goalkeeper to punch away.

While Belgium continued to hound the Japanese with imaginative attacking play, its forays forward invariably left holes at the back, that Blue Samurai was able to find on the odd occasion when it ventured forward.

Just past the half-hour mark, Inui had a great chance to head Japan in front, from a Yuto Nagatomo cross from the left flank. Inui couldn't get the right contact on his header and his weak effort was comfortably pouched by Thibaut Courtois.

The Belgian goalkeeper had an almighty scare in the 44th minute, when the ball slipped through his hands and nearly went over the goalline. With Yuya Osaka in his way and attempting to gather Nagatomo's right-footed effort from the left flank, Courtois allowed the ball to sneak through his palms, albeit the pace had been taken off the ball, fortunately.

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