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World Cup Matchday 18: Mexico say goodbye; Belgium win a classic

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The FIFA World Cup knows drama.

Belgium v Japan: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Brazil 2-0 Mexico

The seventh time was not a charm for Mexico. For the seventh straight World Cup, El Tri have bowed out at the Round of 16 after a 2-0 loss to Brazil. Their exit didn’t come cheaply, however. Juan Carlos Osorio’s side came out of the gate hot, making life extremely uncomfortable for the Samba Boys.

For a solid 50 minutes, Mexico gave the five-time World Cup champs all they could handle. But it wouldn’t be enough as they finally wilted to Brazil’s superior talent. Neymar would get the game’s first goal in the 51st, finishing a brilliant give-and-go move he started with Willian.

Despite their valiant efforts, Mexico never mounted much in the way of dangerous scoring chances. Brazil’s stout defense was just too much for the CONCACAF side to contend with. Roberto Firmino came off the bench late and tapped in the game-winner to send his country to the quarterfinals.

Belgium 3-2 Japan

Belgium were heavy favorites coming into their match-up against Japan and by the 70th minute it appeared that the bookmakers were dead wrong. Japan pulled out to a 2-0 lead in the second half after a scoreless opening 45 minutes. Japan’s technique and organization was a major problem for Belgium as showcased by Takashi Inui’s fantastic goal to make it 2-0.

It appeared as if Belgium would be the latest world power to crash out of this tournament early, but they didn’t quit. A fluky header by Jan Vertonghen just before the 70th minute gave the Red Devils hope for a comeback. Just a few minutes later, second half substitute Marouane Fellaini got on the end of a Eden Hazard cross to tie the match at two.

The match appeared destined for extra time, but with the very last kick of the ball, Belgium won it. A Japan corner kick began their own downfall as Belgium led a perfect counter-attack off of it and it resulted in the most dramatic finish of the tournament so far.

Belgium will play Brazil in the quarterfinals on Friday. What a match that promises to be.