Belgium's win over Japan: A World Cup comeback not seen in almost half a century

Belgium's win over Japan: A World Cup comeback not seen in almost half a century
Copyright REUTERS/Toru Hanai
By Manuel Terradillos
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From Russia 2018 to Mexico 1970. The last time a team came back after being 2-0 behind in the score in the knockout stage was West Germany 48 years ago.


It seemed once again, a World Cup night was about to end with a surprise win for the underdogs. Japan grazed the classification for the quarterfinals in Russia — but favourites Belgium ended their dream with a historic comeback in the final seconds of stoppage time.

The Blue Samurais came out ahead 2-0 thanks to goals from Haraguchi (48') and Inui (52'). So far the Japanese team had been solid: organised and capable of counterattacking with danger. With all this, they seemed more than capable of keeping their advantage and qualifying.

However, the Red Devils managed to recover despite the two-goal disadvantage. Vertonghen (69'), Fellaini (74') tied the game, and deep into injury time Chadli (94') certified the Belgian qualification by scoring the third goal.

A historic comeback

To understand how a team in the World Cup is capable of recovering after being down 2-0 in the knockout stage, we must go back almost half a century ago to the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

In a quarterfinal clash played in the city of Leon, West Germany — with stars like Beckenbauer, Müller, Seeler and Berti Vogts — came back and won 3-2 against England, which had Boby Charlton and Geoff Hurst in the starting eleven.

During the match, Mullery (31') and Peters (49') put England in the driving seat. But Die Mannschaft pulled through with the lead, as Belgium did on Tuesday, and ended up qualifying. 

The difference in 1970 was the Germans played into extra time to reach the semifinals. Beckenbauer (68'), Seeler (76') and Müller (108') made the ultimate comeback that no team has been able to match for 48 years — when Belgium defeated Japan. 

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