Comrade of the Day: Matchday 18

03 July 2018, 11:06
Life After Football

More knockout drama ensued as last-minute heroics and Neymar's first goal of the tournament saw Belgium and Brazil through respectively.

Our Comrade of the Day comes from the later game as Japan, well-drilled and tactically sound for so much of the game, suffered severe heartbreak. After a tight first half, it was they who grabbed the name by the scruff of the neck and they who brought the game into life. A two-nil lead was their reward and for some time, it looked as though they were going to put one of the favourites out.

But step forward Roberto Martinez, their Spanish manager. Looking at a pretty talented bench, he chose Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli to act as his game-changers and, despite one being an often-criticised specialist player and the other struggling with injuries for the relegated West Bromwich, they helped turn this game on its head.

An odd goal from Jan Verthongen started the comeback, but then it was over to Fellaini who, surely subbed on to score a header, did just that to equalise. Then, in the dying embers of the game, a lethal counter-attack started by Courtois in goal, was finished off by the fresh legs of Chadli after running the length of the pitch. Courtois running to Martinez in celebration suggested that this was something well-practised and as such, for the first time in the tournament, our Comrade of the Day is a coach, not a player.

Roberto Martinez has one of the most high-pressure jobs in the whole World Cup as he tried to get the best from Belgium's golden generation. Through some smart subs and more, he may just do that.