Day eighteen proved be just as much fun as all its predecessors. Brazil played neighbours Mexico, while Belgium took on Japan in a game many hoped (foolishly) that England would be part of.
The day’s early match was essentially all Brazil, the first half’s yellow dominance only being punctuated by one solitary Mexico chance. The onslaught of Brazil pressure eventually paid dividends when Neymar tapped in a Marcelo cross, a goal which although was important in the context of the match, underlined this Brazil side’s lack of iconic flair, an ongoing issue for modern Brazil sides.
Were the Mexican goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa, to walk into the Love Island villa today, he would be immediately crowned ‘Supreme Emperor of the Do Bits Society’ thanks to his performance in this game. Time after time, Ochoa denied the Brazilians’ attempts, replicating his outstanding 2014 World Cup form at a crucial time for his nation. After Mexico decided to come up for air and have another shot, the Brazilians forced them back under again, Ochoa producing even more ‘bits’ to maintain some semblance of hope for him and his team. However, two minutes from time, Roberto Firmino and Neymar combined to seal the deal and give Brazil a 2-0 win, as well as a deserved place in the quarter finals.
Belgium v Japan was the second game of the day and after the series of shocks [cough @Germany cough] we have seen this year, many were hopeful of another.
Japan, the cleanest nation at the World Cup thanks to their fans’ exemplary behaviour cleaning the stadium after every match, proved themselves to be no pushovers and added fuel to the fire of another Russia 2018 upset being on the cards, matching Belgium up in every department in the first half. In spite of this, very little of note happened in the first half, bar a Thibaut Courtois fumble on the Belgium goal-line. It really burst into life after the break, when Japan took the match by the scruff of its neck and took a surprise two goal lead, a lead that they continued to attack.
Belgium eventually gathered and found a way back into the match when the world’s best defender, Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen, stepped up and scored a DEFINITELY intentional looped header that he DEFINITELY* meant to shoot with. Marouane Fellaini equalised shortly after, setting up a thrilling conclusion. With 93:29 on the clock and extra time looking a foregone conclusion, Japan had a corner which they decided to go all out for, sending most of the team forward. This decision backfired spectacularly when goalkeeper Courtois caught the ball and unleashed Kevin De Bruyne. His speed and control dragged the Belgium team into the opposition half, then into the opposition area, then into the opposition goal, with the aid of Nacer Chadli’s left foot. 3-2 Belgium. The full-time whistle.
Ecstasy for the Belgians, agony for the Japanese, pure adrenaline for the neutrals.
*I don’t think he actually meant it… Sorry Super Jan x