Monday night was the best night of the World Cup so far.
It started with an increasingly strong looking Brazil side seeing off the challenge of a talented Mexico in Samara, before what will probably go down as the best match of the tournament as Belgium came back from the dead to edge Japan with the last kick of what was an enthralling match.
More about Brazil later, but it would be wrong not to start with Belgium’s remarkable 3-2 comeback win over the Samurai Blue.
It was a game that had everything; superb goals, goal-saving blocks and stupendous saves were in abundance.
In fact the only things it didn’t have were play-acting and time-wasting. Credit to the two teams on this score.
This has to go down as a @FIFAWorldCup classic‼️@jfa_samuraiblue gave it their all in a brave display but @BelRedDevils produced a monumental fightback to advance into the quarter-finals 😮😮😮 #WorldCup #BEL #JPN #BELJPNhttps://t.co/yzw0A1sRCR
— FOX Sports Asia (@FOXSportsAsia) July 2, 2018
It all looked lost for Roberto Martinez’s side after Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui struck in the first seven minutes of the second half to give Japan a seemingly unassailable lead – remember, no team had come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a World Cup knockout game since West Germany in 1970.
Yet, spurred on by the double substitution of Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli in the 65th minute, and then Jan Vertonghen’s somewhat fortunate headed effort minutes later. Belgium hit two further goals, one from each sub, to strike a dagger through Japanese hearts.
Roberto Martinez – tactical genius!
Roberto Martinez brought in Fellaini and Chadli in the 65th Minute
74th Minute – Goal – 2 – 2 – Fellaini
90th Minute – Goal – 3 – 2 – Chadli
— KNOXPETE (@KnoxTainment) July 2, 2018
Heartbreak for Japan. Last minute winner for Belgium.
Both subs scored for Belgium. Fellaini & Chadli. The same people who would have called for Martinez’ head if Belgium had lost have got to give him credit for changing the game at 2-0 down.
Buzzing for Brazil vs Belgium!
— Spencer FC (@SpencerOwen) July 2, 2018
Although some didn’t feel that way at the time.
Need 2 goals and Martinez brings on Fellaini and Chadli! 🤦♂️
— Sripad (@falsewinger) July 2, 2018
Japan also rightly earned their fair share of praise.
Though Japan lost the game, this match is a wonderful answer to the people who thought Japan is a weak team. What a wonderful game. Excellent and exciting performance from the both teams #BELJPN
— शुभेच्छा (@_Shuvekshya_) July 2, 2018
— Abraham Mutai (@ItsMutai) July 2, 2018
Loosing is never an option but if you gonna loose, loose like Japan. 🇯🇵🙌🏽👏🏽 #BELJPN
— Hlengwa Gazide (@Gron_SA) July 2, 2018
Belgium 🇧🇪 wins the match but japan 🇯🇵 wins millions of football lovers hearts ♥️. In the end it's football who's won. #BELJPN
— Nazmun Sakib (@bird444home) July 2, 2018
— ᴍʀꜱ ʙᴀɴɢᴛᴀɴ ASD📌 (@lejindarylife) July 2, 2018
So heart broken for Japan 💔 .. they almost made the fairy tale come true .. total respect 🙏 A fluke, height difference and then ambition did the underdogs spirited fight in.. hold your heads high #BELJPN pic.twitter.com/9qZ32kZWoe
— Randeep Hooda (@RandeepHooda) July 2, 2018
As did their outstanding fans!
After the match in Rostov this evening Japan fans stayed behind to tidy the stadium up despite being beaten..
— TheRealCasuals (@Real_Casuals_66) July 2, 2018
Win or lose, Japan fans are all class. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/9NtzXbZdCt
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 2, 2018
Japan and their fans earned a level of praise that Neymar can only dream about.
Despite playing a pivotal part in his side’s impressive 2-0 win over Mexico, the PSG striker continues to annoy fans with his antics and play-acting.
Although, to be fair he was actually trod on by Layun for this one.
— ْ (@LIOMO9) July 2, 2018
Still, Internet reaction was predictably divided.
— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) July 2, 2018
Neymar is pathetic.
— Matthew Lewis (@Mattdavelewis) July 2, 2018
Neymar is the reason Americans don’t like soccer pic.twitter.com/MBELnESzp5
— Justice Andrés Caballero (@andy17881) July 2, 2018
— ropoem (@ropoem) July 2, 2018
Thank you for uniting polarized Brazil (for now).
— Monica de Bolle (@bollemdb) July 2, 2018
Neymar is just way too good and we know it
— Rubio (@ppprrrhhhyyy10) July 2, 2018
Yes it’s A Goal and it’s Neymar
Lovely Football love Brazil 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/cxWui46tpA
— Abdul hafiz kanu (@AhafizkanuAbdul) July 2, 2018
Brazil, meanwhile, earned nothing but praise.
My pre-World Cup tip was Brazil.
My tip remains Brazil.
They look a formidable team – strong at the back, tough in midfield, thrilling at the front. #BRAvMEX
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 2, 2018
Brazil good at BOTH ends. Neymar will grab headlines… & rightly so but defensively they are strong. Good shape & desire to block shots and crosses. Thiago Silva & Fagner 💪 #worldcup
— Robbie Mustoe (@robbiemustoe) July 2, 2018
They might not be warming everyone's heart, but I still can't see past Brazil as favourites for the title. Four matches into the tournament and they've barely given away a serious opportunity. I can't remember Alisson making a save. #BRAMEX #WorldCup
— Thomas Schaling (@ThomasSchaling) July 2, 2018
What was your favourite moment from a memorable World Cup Monday?