A narrow last-minute defeat saw the end of the World Cup road for Japan and Takashi Usami on Monday night. Despite taking a 2-0 lead against Belgium, the Samurai Blue were eliminated from the tournament in Russia in injury time, losing 3-2.Japan started stronger and could have taken an early lead through Shinki Kagawa, but his shot was just too high.
Romelu Lukaku was Belgium’s biggest threat as expected, causing havoc in the Japan penalty area throughout the half, though when the half time whistle blew Japan were still very much in the game at 0-0.
The shock was very much on in the second half when Genki Haraguchi fired the Asian side into the lead – and in the process scored Japan’s first ever knockout goal at a World Cup. Belgium responded by forcing more pressure, but it was Japan who struck the next blow, as Takashi Inui rifled home from distance to double the lead.
Belgium needed a re-group. Or a slice of luck. They got the latter when Jan Vertonghen handed them a lifeline, as his headed attempt to nod back across goal ended up in the bottom corner of the net. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez then brought on Marouane Fellaini, a move which proved in inspired when the Manchester United midfielder headed in an equaliser with fifteen minutes to go.
Bitter end in injury time
Both teams wanted to get a winner, though as injury time started it looked as though this one was headed for extra time. That was until Thibaut Courtois collected a last minute corner, rolled the ball to Kevin de Bruyne, who fed a teammate down the right before the ball was crossed into the centre for Nacer Chadli to win it at the death for Belgium and set up a last eight tie with Brazil.
And with that, Taskashi Usami and Japan’s 2018 World Cup adventure came to an end.