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World Cup : Belgium stun Japan to reach quarterfinals

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Belgium thrashed Japan 3-2 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Minday as substitute Nacer Chadli scored in the dying seconds and set up a clash with five-time champions Brazil.

The Japanese team, who went 2-0 up with goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui early in the second half, fell to the turf after Chadli poked the ball home from Thomas Meunier’s cross four minutes into added time at the Rostov Arena.

Belgium, who had taken a conservative approach to the game, got back into contention with late goals by Jan Vertonghen and substitute Marouane Fellaini before Chadli struck.

Belgium, one of the most exciting teams of the group phase, faced an embarrassing exit but finally clicked to become the first team to win a World Cup knockout game from two goals down since West Germany beat England 3-2 after extra time in 1970.

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Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ have now scored 12 goals in four games in Russia ahead of a mouthwatering last eight clash with Brazil who beat Mexico 2-0 earlier on Monday.

Both teams fought a tight midfield battle but their forwards froze in the area and Belgium’s wide players, Meunier and Yannick Carrasco, did not take risks going forward, effectively.

The Japanese were ahead soon after the break, though, when Haraguchi beat the offside trap and ran into the area to beat Courtois with a cross-shot in the 48th minute.

Japan got closest to a goal in a dull first half when Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois let the ball slip from his hands and between his legs but recovered before it crossed the line.

Belgium responded but Hazard’s shot rattled the post and Japan doubled their tally in the 52nd when Inui picked up the ball 25 metres out and fired a missile into the back of the net.

Belgium continued to push forward and both Chadli and Lukaku forced Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima into a couple of spectacular saves with powerful headers four minutes from full time.

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France beats Croatia 4-2 to clinch 2nd World Cup title

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MOSCOW — France has clinched its second FIFA World Cup title after beating Croatia 4-2 in the finals in Moscow on Sunday in the highest-scoring final since 1966.

France led 2-1 at halftime courtesy of the first own-goal and the first video-reviewed penalty in a World Cup final. The own-goal off the top of Mario Mandzukic’s head was the 12th of the tournament.

Argentine referee Nestor Pitana initially didn’t call the handball but awarded the spot kick after a video review – the first time in a World Cup final. Antoine Griezmann converted the penalty to put France back in front.

Croatia rallied to equalize with a terrific left-foot strike by Ivan Perisic; however France took the lead right back when Perisic handled the ball in his own penalty area.

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The match was temporarily disrupted when four pitch invaders ran onto the field in the 52nd minute before being dragged away by security and police.

Punk rock group Pussy Riot quickly claimed responsibility for the pitch invasion via social media, saying it was a protest aimed at ending illegal arrests of protesters and to allow political competition in Russia.

Play resumed and France quickly took a 4-1 lead with goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe in the 59th and 65th minutes.

Croatia was playing in its first World Cup final. For France, it was a first World Cup crown since winning on home soil in 1998.

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