The Blue Samurai found the weakness of the Belgian defense and worked accordingly.
The Round of 16 match between Belgium and Japan took an unexpected turn when the Asian side took a 2-0 lead in the 53rd minute before Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli pulled the Red Devils over the line to record a comeback victory. Although, Japan looked to be in control for the majority of the game, the Blue Samurai fell to an unexpected defeat, exiting from the World Cup in the process.
Here are the takeaways from the game.
5. Asia exit the World Cup with Japan’s elimination
Following Japan’s defeat to Belgium, the Asian contingent at this edition of the quadrennial competition have officially left the tournament, with the Blue Samurai being the last of the Asian sides.
The furthest an Asian country has gotten in the World Cup is South Korea, as they reached the semi-finals in 2002.
4. Belgian determination paid off
Belgium enjoyed 58% of the possession and had a massive 24 shots on goal to Japan’s 11. The persistence eventually paid off as Belgium came from behind to win the game.
Japan faded from the contest in the heat at the Rostov Arena, but the Belgians forced the issue and reaped the rewards.
3. Belgium have immense squad depth
Manchester United’s Fellaini came off the bench to score Belgium’s equalizing goal which underlined just how versatile the squad is capable of being. In an instant, they changed their tactics from playing balls to the feet of Eden Hazard and into Romelu Lukaku to hold-up play and putting it into the box and onto the head of Fellaini.
Nacer Chadli also came off the bench to sweep the ball home following a breathtaking Belgian counter-attack, making it a very satisfying evening for Roberto Martinez.
2. Japan’s high press caught them out in the end
Unlike the other lower ranked teams so far in the knockout stages of the World Cup of 2018, Japan refused to sit on the backfoot and wait for Belgium to come onto them.
Instead of a defensive approach, they operated in a very high press that put the Belgian defence under pressure and paid dividends as they scored two goals. However, as the game wore on, fatigue soon caught up with the Japanese, who could not keep up with the marauding pace of the Belgians.
1. Martinez needs to sort out his defence before facing Brazil
With Brazil’s clinical gameplay next up for the Red Devils Martinez needs to fix his side’s defensive weaknesses quickly or lose all hopes of making it to the semi-finals of the World Cup. If nothing changes, the Belgian defenders will be in for a long night next Friday.