Brazil, Belgium Graduate to Quarterfinals

Belgium’s Nacer Chadli scores his team’s third goal in the 94th minute to beat Japan 3-2.Belgium’s Nacer Chadli scores his team’s third goal in the 94th minute to beat Japan 3-2.

Neymar barged his way into the World Cup limelight with a goal, an assist and another helping of histrionics as Brazil roared into the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Mexico on Monday.

The Paris St Germain forward was both architect and executioner for Brazil, which inflicted a seventh straight last-16 exit on the central Americans, sliding home in the second half and then teeing up Roberto Firmino late on, Reuters reported.

Yet the less attractive side of his game was also on display, as he writhed on the floor, seemingly in agony, after Mexico’s Miguel Layun had made the slightest contact with his ankle, before making an immediate and miraculous recovery.

That should not overshadow his generally positive performance, however, as the five-times champion beat an otherwise stubborn Mexico, whose World Cup began with such promise with a victory over title holder Germany, but ended in familiar fashion in the first knockout round.

It was the seventh World Cup running that Brazil has reached the last eight, while Mexico has not made it to that stage since hosting the tournament in 1986.

Mexico, which enjoyed an enviable recent record against Brazil having won seven of their previous 15 matches against the South American team, was a threat on the counter in the first half but then faded without ever really being put to the sword.

A glaring spotlight had been on Neymar after his opening three performances saw him miss a litany of chances, frequently squander possession and spend far too long on the turf.

Yet he answered a number of questions with his display and a decisive finish early in the second half from a move that he had started himself.

It began when he darted across the edge of the area before a perfect backheel released the excellent Willian, whose low cross fizzed into the danger area where Neymar slid in to turn the ball home for his second goal of the tournament.

It was a choking blow for Mexico, which had been the better side for the opening half an hour.

Brazil had to wait until the 88th minute to put the match to bed. Neymar was the architect, crossing for Firmino, who is becoming something of a ‘supersub’ for Brazil, to tap the ball home.

  Japan Stunned by Loss

Belgium threw caution to the wind to reach the World Cup quarterfinals when substitute Nacer Chadli scored in the dying seconds, beating spirited Japan 3-2 on Monday to set up a mouthwatering clash with five-time champion Brazil.

The distraught Japanese, who went 2-0 up with goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui early in the second half, fell to the turf after Chadli poked the ball home from Thomas Meunier’s cross four minutes into added time at the Rostov Arena.

Much-fancied Belgium, which had taken a conservative approach to the game, got back into contention with late goals by Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini before Chadli struck in a demonstration of coach Robert Martinez’s tactical nous.

One of the most exciting teams of the group phase, Belgium became the first team to win a World Cup knockout game from two goals down since West Germany beat England 3-2 after extra time in 1970.

Both teams fought a tight midfield battle but their forwards froze in the area and Belgium’s wide players, Meunier and Yannick Carrasco, did not take risks going forward.

The Japanese were ahead soon after the break when Haraguchi beat the offside trap and ran into the area to beat Courtois with a cross-shot in the 48th minute.

Japan doubled its tally in the 52nd when Inui picked up the ball 25 meters out and fired a missile into the back of the net.

The Red Devils were still struggling but they pulled a goal back after 69 minutes when Vertonghen looped a header from a high clearance back across goal into the far top corner. The momentum had shifted and in the 74th, Eden Hazard’s cross was met by Fellaini, who equalized from close range with a powerful header within 10 minutes of coming on.

Belgium continued to push forward and both Chadli and Lukaku forced Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima into spectacular saves with powerful headers four minutes from the end.

Keisuke Honda’s 30-meter free-kick was parried away by Courtois in stoppage time before the keeper launched the ball to Kevin De Bruyne to make a beeline upfield before finding Meunier, whose cross was met by Chadli for the winner.

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