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Stoppage time winner completes Belgium comeback

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Nacer Chadli‘s goal seconds before the final whistle led Belgium to a thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Japan on Monday at the World Cup in Rostov-on-Don.

Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini also scored for Belgium, who will meet Brazil in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui helped Japan to a 2-0 lead.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

Romelu Lukaku looked strong out of the gates, creating enough space to earn a pair of corner kicks in the first 20 minutes.

One of the few balls Japan got to the doorstep was bungled between the legs of Thibaut Courtois, but he collected it before any of the Samurai Blue could pounce on it.

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Japan opened the second half with a history-making vigor, scoring twice inside of five minutes.

A misplay from Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen allowed Haraguchi to dribble on goal, and he acted like a cutback to his left foot was coming before pushing a right footed shot beyond the reach of Courtois.

Then it was Inui’s turn, and what he did was nothing short of gorgeous.

Given some room to maneuver, Shinji Kagawa and Inui worked outside the 18 before the latter unleashed an arrow toward goal. Courtois could not reach it.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Lukaku just missed turning a header inside the far post in the 62nd minute as Belgium tried to get on the board and put pressure on the upstart Samurai Blue.

Vertonghen got a bit of redemption in the 70th minute, when his headed cross back across goal looped over the keeper and into the goal. A pass? Most likely. A goal? Certainly.

Fellaini’s goal, five minutes after entering the game, made it 2-2. It was a trademark powerful header from the Manchester United man.

Eiji Kawashima made a pair of fantastic saves for Japan as the game moved toward the final whistle of regulation, and Courtois answered with a beauty of his own in the 90th.

The Red Devils completed the comeback in the fourth minute of stoppage time, cued up by Kevin De Bruyne. Thomas Meunier cut a square ball through the 18 that Lukaku dummied for Chadli to slide home.

PST’s Top Ten Premier League defenders and goalkeepers

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ProSoccerTalk quizzed its staff on the best players of the 2017-18 Premier League season, broken up into eight categories.

Goalkeepers, left backs, center backs, right backs, center mids, attacking mids, wingers, and center forwards/strikers were slotted 1-10 (with wing backs lumped in with the fullbacks).

[ MORE: The Premier League season in statistics ]

In this first of two posts, we handle the goalkeepers and backs. First-place votes are in parenthesis.

Goalkeeper

10. Mat Ryan, Brighton and Hove Albion

9. Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City

8. Martin Dubravka, Newcastle United

7. Jack Butland, Stoke City

6. Jordan Pickford, Everton

5. Hugo Lloris, Tottenham Hotspur

4. Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea

3. Nick Pope, Burnley

2. Ederson, Manchester City (1)

  1. David De Gea, Manchester United (3)
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Left backs/left wing backs

10. Patrick Van Aanholt, Crystal Palace

9. Charlie Daniels, Bournemouth

8. Leighton Baines, Everton

7. Ryan Bertrand, Southampton

6. Nacho Monreal, Arsenal

5. Andy Robertson, Liverpool

4. Fabian Delph, Manchester City

3. Ben Davies, Tottenham Hotspur

2. Marcos Alonso, Chelsea (2)

  1. Ashley Young, Manchester United (2)
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Right backs / right wing backs

10. Seamus Coleman, Everton

9. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United

8. Hector Bellerin, Arsenal

7. Matthew Lowton, Burnley

6. Cedric Soares, Southampton

5. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool

4. Victor Moses, Chelsea

3. Kieran Trippier, Tottenham Hotspur

2. Antonio Valencia, Manchester United (1)

  1. Kyle Walker, Manchester City (3)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Center backs

10. Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastle United

9. Vincent Kompany, Manchester City

8. Lewis Dunk, Brighton and Hove Albion

7. Harry Maguire, Leicester City

6. Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

5. Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City

4. Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

3. Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool

2. James Tarkowski, Burnley

  1. Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham Hotspur (4)

Vertonghen injured in warmups, out of Spurs season finale

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Oft-injured defender Jan Vertonghen was injured in warmups as Spurs got ready to host Leicester City on the final day of the Premier League season, and has been pulled from their starting lineup.

Vertonghen, who will be 32 years old as next season gets under way, has struggled with injuries in years past, but has had a relatively clean campaign this time around, playing 36 times in the Premier League, missing just a February game against Crystal Palace. He limped off with an ankle injury in the latter stages of a 1-0 win over Newcastle last time out, but was expected to fully recover for Sunday’s season finale.

[ WATCH LIVE: Tottenham vs. Leicester City ]

He will be hoping to earn his 100th cap for Belgium at the 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer, but now with the potential of a new muscle problem or a recurrence of his ankle injury from last time out, that could possibly be in doubt. Vertonghen was replaced by Victory Wanyama in the Spurs lineup against Leicester. There is no word as of yet on what the injury might be or how serious it is. It’s possible that, with little on the line for Spurs on the final day, that his withdrawal is simply precautionary.

With Vertonghen out of the lineup, Leicester City went ahead early and bagged a pair of goals inside the opening 20 minutes.

Belgium is in World Cup Group G and will open play on June 18 against Panama, with England and Tunisia also among their opponents.

Pochettino insists Alderweireld not playing due to form of starting defenders

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Mauricio Pochettino has insisted that Toby Alderweireld‘s absence from the Tottenham squad of late is down to player selection, not any personal reasons and not contract related.

The towering Belgian defender has been a rock at the back for Spurs since signing from Atletico Madrid in 2015, but this season he has hardly featured. Most of that is down to a serious hamstring suffered in October, but he has fully recovered from the tear, and yet has not played since returning to fitness.

Many have speculated as to why Alderweireld has been left out of the squad, and those with more mischievous thoughts have postulated that his contract situation may have something to do with it. While injured, talks of a contract extension reportedly broke down, and with his current deal expiring in the summer of 2019, questions have been asked of Pochettino, which he has deflected.

“My decision is always about football,” Pochettino said. “It is not personal and not because of a contract problem. I don’t care about that. Always my decision is about what is best for the team and the best for the club.”

Instead, the Spurs manager insisted, it is because those who have played in his place are in good form. “I am so sorry because Toby was an important player for us in the last two seasons. Then he got the injury and players like Davinson [Sanchez] and [Jan] Vertonghen stepped up — and you have got to deserve to play.”

Pochettino then gave Alderweireld an ultimatum, saying he will play when he deserves to. “If we are happy with the players who are playing, you need to wait. That does not mean he is not going to play again. But now he needs to keep pushing and try to show me he can play better than the others.”

Unfortunately, while a coach can challenge a player publicly, if that’s Pochettino’s true feeling then it’s unlikely Alderweireld will make it back into the team unless a player in the lineup is either injured or dips in form. Tottenham has conceded 26 goals this season, third-fewest in the Premier League behind the two Manchester clubs sitting in first and second place in the table, so with the way things stand, it’s hard to argue with Pochettino’s reasoning even if deep down fans don’t believe him.

Pochettino, Son, Vertonghen discuss Kane’s ankle injury

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Tottenham Hotspur overcame a slow start with a fantastic finish in a 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday, but most of the post-match talk had to do with injuries.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 1-4 Spurs ]

And while Dele Alli did limp off late, the focus was on Harry Kane. The red-hot English striker left the match after just 30 minutes with an injury to the same ankle which cost him playing time on two separate occasions last season

Here’s Mauricio Pochettino:

“I am concerned until tomorrow, and the scan. We can say nothing more.

“Of course I worry about him, his ankle we hope it is not a massive issue for him and the team and hope he can recover as soon as possible and be available.”

Jan Vertonghen spoke of the injury and its potential ramifications on Spurs’ quest for the Top Four.

“We have to wait for news on Harry,” Vertonghen said. “He is a great player and if it is a serious injury we will miss him. But with guys like Sonny, Erik Lamela and so many others they stepped up.”

Heung-Min Son scored a pair of goals on Sunday in another Man of the Match caliber performance, and related that he spoke to Kane at halftime.

Kane told Son it was a twisted ankle, and Son summed up the feelings of so many Spurs supporters when he said.

“Harry Kane is really, really important for us. He is one of the best players in the world.”