The win came courtesy of one final effort from the Belgium side, which came to life thanks to one of the finest counterattacks you’ll ever see and capped off by a selfless, strategic, and stylish play by Romelu Lukaku.
Below, we take you through the moments that led up to Belgium’s decisive third goal, beat-by-beat.
1. Thibaut Courtois sees the field.
After fighting back from a 2-0 deficit that Japan had built in the opening minutes of the second half, Belgium’s defence came up big once again in the final seconds of stoppage time, with keeper Courtois making a save and looking up to survey his options.
What he saw was a field wide open for a counterattack.
2. Kevin De Bruyne triggers the counter.
Courtois rolled the ball out to De Bruyne, triggering an all-out sprint toward Japan’s goal in one final effort to secure a victory.
Moving with possession, De Bruyne saw he had numbers, with five men to Japan’s four – and everyone moving in the right direction.
3. Thomas Meunier makes his run.
With the numbers on Belgium’s side, Meunier sprinted toward space, hoping to extend the team’s advantage and set up the game-winner.
4. Meunier crosses the ball in.
When Meunier received the ball, he built Belgium’s advantage even further. Now with a three-on-two, Meunier must find a way to get the ball to the open man and end the game.
5. Romelu Lukaku’s perfect dummy.
As it turns out, Lukaku would make it easy for Meunier, pulling off a perfect dummy, a fake shot at the ball that draws in a defender while allowing the ball to roll to the open man behind.
Lukaku knew there was only one defender to keep pace with both him and his teammate Nacer Chadli. Rather than battle for a one-on-one shot, Lukaku faked his strike, drew attention, and let the ball roll right by him.
On replay, one of the commentators called it “the greatest dummy in World Cup history.”
With Lukaku having done the dirty work, Chadli had an easy time putting the ball away.
On further replays, Lukaku’s ability to hold off and trust that his teammate will send the team to victory only gets more impressive.
More World Cup coverage:
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- World Cup Power Ranking: Where every team stands heading into the knockout round
- The World Cup knockout bracket is set, and there is a ‘side of death’
- The most mesmerising photos from the World Cup so far
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