Brilliant Belgium scripts fightback, seals quarterfinal spot

Defeats Japan 3-2 with an injury-time winner after trailing by two goals.

Comeback completed! Romelu Lukaku celebrates with Thomas Meunier after Belgium’s winning goal during injury time.   -  AFP

Belgium produced one of the great World Cup comebacks on Monday to beat Japan 3-2 and set up an attractive-looking quarterfinal clash against Neymar's Brazil. Substitute Nacer Chadli was Belgium's hero on a humid night in Rostov-on-Don, scoring in the fourth minute of injury time to seal the dramatic victory.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said he was deeply proud after his team hit back from 2-0 down to beat Japan.

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“That was a test for the team and its character,” said Martinez after Belgium become the first team in 48 years to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a World Cup knockout match. “We survived it, we have gone through and that is the most important thing.”

“No negatives today, it was about getting through,” Martinez added. “It is a day to be very proud of these players. Keep believing in Belgium. In the World Cup you want to be perfect but it's about getting through, it's about winning. I couldn't be prouder of them and everyone in Belgium needs to be proud of these players.”

‘Perfect game’ from Japan

Martinez, the former Everton manager, also said Japan deserved credit for presenting his team with such a tough test. “Let's congratulate Japan, they played the perfect game. They were clinical on the counter and so solid,” said the Belgium boss.

IN PICTURES: Belgium through to quarters, heartbreak for Japan

“It was a test of character and you see the reaction of our subs coming on to win the game. It tells you everything about this group of players. Physically, we finished the game really strong, the third goal was almost a powerful counter-attack which saw us cover the pitch in six seconds.”

WATCH: Highlights - Belgium 3-2 Japan

The Spaniard denied underestimating Japan after his side went 2-0 down early in the second-half. “We didn't underestimate them, we gave the players a lot of details about what Japan could do,” said Martinez. “Their first goal was a fantastic counter-attack and the second one was a wonder strike from them down to brilliance. Mentally we had to be very strong, I felt the players always had the belief, but we never underestimated Japan.”

Martinez singled out Romelu Lukaku for praise in the build-up to the winning goal after the Manchester United striker let the ball roll to the unmarked Chaldi to score, rather than claim the glory for himself as he was marked. “Lukaku was aware and showed great selflessness to allow Nacer to score,” beamed Martinez.

(Video courtesy: FIFA TV)

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