Belgium scored a stunning late goal from two down to beat Japan 3-2 and progress to a World Cup quarter-final against Brazil
It will go down as a World Cup classic, a wild and chaotic game that will be talked about in years to come, in particular those dramatic final seconds when Belgium went from one end of the pitch to the other in the blink of an eye to score the goal that completed a remarkable comeback and broke Japans hearts.
Thibaut Courtois, who had started that counterattack by claiming a corner, charged out of his area to embrace Roberto Martnez, the coach, and anyone tuning in at that moment could have been forgiven for thinking that Belgium had just won the World Cup. There were raucous scenes as Nacer Chadli, the scorer of the winning goal, was mobbed by his teammates while Martnez and Courtois danced on the pitch.
Belgiums elation was understandable on so many levels. Two goals down with 21 minutes remaining, they looked like they would be suffering the same fate as Germany, Spain, Portugal and Argentina. Instead, Belgium created a little bit of history by becoming the first team to come from two goals down to win a World Cup knockout match since 1970, when West Germany beat England in a quarter-final.
Yet it was not just the prize a World Cup quarter-final against Brazil on Friday or the comeback that made this victory so special; it was the timing of the winning goal, too. The clock had ticked into the last of four minutes of added time when Chadli connected with Thomas Meuniers cross, leaving Japan, who played with such courage and belief throughout, with barely enough time to take the kick-off.
The final whistle sounded seconds later and the contrast in emotions was extraordinary. As Belgium rejoiced, the Japan players collapsed. Some were in tears; others beat the floor in frustration. They had played superbly and contributed so much to a pulsating second half of football, giving Belgium the fright of their lives in the process, yet ultimately Akira Nishino and his players had nothing to show for it. It seemed cruel on so many levels and Nishino, the coach, seemed to blame himself afterwards for not doing more to prevent Chadlis goal.