Eden Hazard admitted memories of Belgium’s shock Euro 2016 defeat to Wales haunted him during their stunning 3-2 last-gasp win over Japan to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
“We are just so happy to go through,” said Belgium captain Hazard, who was the man of the match in Rostov, as his side set up a quarter-final against Brazil in Kazan on Friday.
Belgium were facing a World Cup exit when goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui in four devastating minutes put Japan 2-0 up early in the second half.
Hazard said memories of their shock 3-1 defeat to the unfancied Welsh in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 came flooding back.
“To be fair, we were thinking it was like two years ago against Wales. But we have players who can change the game and they came off the bench to make the difference,” said Hazard.
From 2-0 down, Belgium clawed back a goal from Jan Vertonghen before replacements Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli, who hit the 94th-minute winner, also scored to complete the fight back.
“During the first half we were quite good, but things went wrong at the start of the second half, both goals were avoidable, but the reaction we showed was great,” said Hazard.
The victory emphatically answered any questions about the Belgians’ fighting spirit.
“These are the type of matches we need, so we are all very happy. It’s going to be magnificent playing against Brazil and we need to rest and regenerate,” Hazard added.
Chadli’s superbly worked goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time was the final act of an epic last-16 battle.
Belgium become the first team in 48 years to successfully overturn a 2-0 deficit in a World Cup knockout game.
“In the first 60 minutes, we were a little roughed up by the Japanese, who were very well-prepared for our tactics,” said Belgium’s match-winner Chadli. -AFP