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ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, July 3, 2018 (News Wires) - Eden Hazard praised Belgium’s fighting spirit after the Red Devils came from two goals down to beat Japan 3-2 and advance to a World Cup quarter-final showdown against Brazil.

“We are just so happy to go through to the quarter-finals,” said Belgium’s captain Hazard, who was the man-of-the-match in Rostov.

“Things went wrong at the start of the second half and both (Japan) goals were avoidable, but the reaction we showed was great.”

Nacer Chadli’s superbly worked goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time was the final act of an epic last-16 battle.

Belgium become the first team in 48 years to successfully overturn a 2-0 deficit in a World Cup knockout game.

Belgium will face five-time champions Brazil in Kazan on Friday after scoring three second-half goals without reply to break Japan’s dogged resistance.

Goals by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui in four devastating minutes had put Japan2-0 up early in the second half to leave Belgium reeling.

However, the Red Devils responded with quick goals of their own as Jan Vertonghen, at fault for Haraguchi’s goal, and Marouane Fellaini both scored headers before Chadli’s dramatic winner in Rostov.

“It was a tragedy, but I have to accept the defeat as a fact, but I feel devastated and very disappointed,” said Japan coach Akira Nishino.

“I felt there wasn’t in it between the teams, maybe it was my decisions as a coach and we couldn’t keep up when Belgium upped their game.”

Relieved Belgium manager Roberto Martinez saluted his side’s resolve.

“The players had the desire to win and to do it during the 90 minutes was an incredible achievement,” said Martinez.

“Keep believing in Belgium. In the World Cup you want to be perfect but it’s about getting through, it’s about winning.”

TOKYO, July 3, 2018 (News Wires) — Japan on Tuesday approved an energy plan that sets ambitious targets for nuclear energy use and sustains a struggling programme for spent-fuel
recycling despite setbacks after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The plan approved on Tuesday by the Cabinet noted for the first time the need to reduce the plutonium stockpile, given international security concerns. The stockpile results from technical challenges in achieving fuel recycling and from slow restarts of reactors to burn it amid widespread anti-nuclear sentiment.

Japan repeatedly has stated its commitment to transparency and appropriate handling of the plutonium, but the U.S. in particular has raised concerns in recent years. It has urged Japan
to suspend the planned launch of its key reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, northern Japan.

"The energy plan makes clearer our commitment to reducing the amount" of plutonium, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters. "The government will
actively work to appropriately manage, use and reduce the plutonium."

The plan, however, did not give a timeline or other details for shrinking the stockpile.

Japan has nearly 47 tons of plutonium, more than three-quarters of which is kept in France and Britain where Japanese spent fuel has been reprocessed since Japan is not able to
reprocess it into plutonium-based MOX fuel pellets at home. The total is enough to make 6,000 atomic bombs, though the Rokkasho plant operator has insisted there is no risk of proliferation, saying all plutonium is stored safely and closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The energy plan calls for further development of renewable energy but still stipulates that nuclear energy should account for 20 to 22 per cent of Japan's power generation by fiscal 2030. It sets a 22 to 24 per cent target for renewable energy, with the remainder coming from fossil fuels in line with goals set in 2015. The plan urges further progress in meeting pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent from 2013 levels by fiscal 2050.

Experts say attaining that goal is almost impossible since utilities are opting to scrap aging reactors rather than to invest in meeting tighter post-disaster safety standards. Uncertainty over what to do with massive radioactive waste in the crowded and earthquake-prone island nation is another big concern.

Takeo Kikkawa, a Tokyo University of Science professor and energy expert, told Japan's NHK television the plan fails to provide realistic plans for increasing use of renewable energy.

"If Japan still has no clear vision, it should study multiple scenarios," he said.

Japanese utilities have decided to scrap 19 reactors, cutting the number of usable reactors to 35.

ROSTOV-ON-DON, July 1, 2018 (News Wires) - Eden Hazard says Belgium have a new level of maturity as they prepare to take on Japan, eyeing a World Cup quarter-final spot against Brazil or Mexico.

A so-called “golden generation” of Belgian stars are running out of time to win a major title but Hazard said they have a chance to make their rich talents count in Russia.

“This is our time to shine, definitely. We have top players and we play as a group, especially after the win over England,” said the Chelsea star. “It’s in our hands, we need to give everything and see what happens.

“I am also a lot stronger than four years ago in Brazil. That was the first major tournament for many of us, knockout matches have a lot to do with experience and can be complicated.

“We have the same level of maturity across the team, which will make a difference this time.”

With Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Lionel Messi’s Argentina - both in the same half of the draw - out of the tournament, Hazard wants Belgium to reach the final for the first time in their history.

However, he refused to look past Japan towards a potential quarter-final against Mexico or Brazil.  

“We are just focused on this game. Messi and Ronaldo are out, but there are still a lot of players like me who also want to go to the final too, so let’s see,” said Hazard.

Coach Roberto Martinez is set to start with a full-strength side after resting nine players, including Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, in the 1-0 win over England that saw Belgium win their group.

“The squad is in a very good place, mentally and physically,” said Martinez.

“The ones who played against England are desperate to contribute again and those who were rested want to get out on the pitch.”

However, Martinez warned that Japan, who scraped into the last 16 because they had a better disciplinary record than Senegal, could hurt his team.

“They have incredible energy, get up the pitch fast and are organised,” said Martinez.

“They are a generation with a good age and have a lot of experience, with players like (Shinji) Kagawa and (Keisuke) Honda. They know what needs to be done to win.

“We will have to pay attention because they are used to causing teams problems in both boxes.”

The Belgians are wary of over-confidence against Japan, two years after they lost to Wales in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

“We know what to do and what not to do, we are better off,” insisted Hazard. “Two years ago we had a few injuries. Japan are a different team to Wales, we’ll learn the lessons.”

CAIRO, July 1, 2018 (MENA) - Egypt's Ambassador in Tokyo Ayman Kamel said on Sunday that the Japanese Foreign Ministry officially notified the Egyptian Embassy in Japan that it modified its travel advisories to Egypt.

Japan did not ban travel to Egypt, but the Japanese "Travel Advice and Warning" downgraded its warning of travel to Egypt from "Recommendation to consider whether or not to travel" category, to "Travel caution" category, the ambassador noted in a statement.

The new Japanese decision included listing all Nile River Valley, Nile Delta, the Eastern Desert, Red Sea coast and coastal cities from Port Said to Marsa Matruh in the regions, where the Japanese could freely visit with caution as well as Greater Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and coastal district between Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh cities, Kamel pointed out.

On the other hand, the Egyptian Embassy in Japan organized a forum on tourism in Egypt at the premises of the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA), in attendance of the director of JATA, more than 50 travel agents and media figures

During the symposium, the ambassador reviewed the latest developments of tourism promotion in Egypt and measures taken to secure the tourism destinations, ports and airports here.

The Japanese travel decision remained its travel advisories to Egypt's Western Desert at "Recommendation to consider whether or not to travel" category and "Recommendation to defer all travel" category for borders with Libya and Sinai Peninsula except Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh.

Travel Caution category urges Japanese nationals to remain alert to the security situation and take necessary precautions, when they travel and reside in the relevant country or region.

TOKYO, July 1, 2018 (News Wires) - Japan has lowered its military readiness level against North Korean missiles as Washington embarks on delicate nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang, a report said on Sunday, citing multiple unnamed sources close to the matter.

The report came as Japan finds itself under pressure to soften its hardline stance against Pyongyang following US President Donald Trump’s landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.

Japan’s Self Defense Forces Friday dropped their programme to always deploy Aegis warships in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) that detect and intercept incoming missiles, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

But Japanese forces will remain ready to intercept missiles detected via spy satellite images, the newspaper said.

Japanese defence officials told the Asahi that Tokyo was following in the footsteps of the United States, which has already lowered its alert level in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan has also suspended public evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack.

Japanese defence ministry officials were not available for immediate comment.

Japan has long maintained a tight-lipped stance about its exact defence posture against North Korea, including the locations of the high-tech Aegis vessels.

As concern has grown in Tokyo about Japan being left on the sidelines in the diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month said that his government has approached Pyongyang to arrange a summit with Kim.

After his own meeting with Kim, Trump unexpectedly announced plans to suspend joint military exercises between the US and South Korea that had previously been seen as a vital measure to contain the North Korean threat.

South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in also favours a softer approach towards Pyongyang and has met Kim twice during the recent remarkable detente on the Korean Peninsula.

But the outlook of the North’s denuclearisation efforts remain unclear at best, with the Washington Post reporting Saturday that Pyongyang plans to keep some of its nuclear stockpile and production facilities while potentially concealing them from the US.

MOSCOW, July 1, 2018 (News Wires) - Belgium go into Monday’s World Cup last 16 match against Japan full of confidence but wary that relying on individual talent against similarly well-organized but less fancied teams has cost them dear in the past.

The two teams come into the knockout phase off the back of very different performances - Japan embarrassingly strolled through a 1-0 defeat by Poland to advance by having fewer yellow cards than Senegal while Belgium threw calculations to the winds and saw their second-string beat England’s reserve team 1-0, risking a possible quarter-final against Brazil.

Unbeaten in 22 games, Roberto Martinez’s side can take comfort from a 1-0 victory over Japan in a friendly in Belgium last November in which their goal was scored by Romelu Lukaku, who has netted four times in two games in Russia so far and who is available to face Japan after an ankle injury.

“The opportunity of facing Japan with the mentality that the group has is a very positive moment for us,” Martinez said ahead of Monday’s match in Rostov-on-Don.

Noting Japan had dramatically changed their coach since last year’s friendly - Akira Nishino was brought in just two months ago - he praised the side which beat group winners Colombia in their opening match. “They’re going to be a competitive team,” he said. “They know how to hurt you in a counter-attack.”

Nishino has promised a better performance than the antics in the later stages against Poland. “(Fans) were short-changed 10 minutes and they probably got a bit less mileage than usual out of the first 80,” he said. “So I want to pay people back.”

After many changes against Poland, the Samurai Blue, who have twice reached this stage but have never gone further, should revert to a lineup including captain Makoto Hasebe, Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa and Yuya Osako up front.

It is the first big competitive test of Martinez’s two years of trying to turn a “golden generation” of individual talents with big egos at club level into a national side which can finally live up to its top-five FIFA world ranking.

With nine goals and nine points from their three group games, the Belgians are going into the final stages buzzing - and refusing to regret a win over England that leaves them in what looks a much the tougher half of the draw, which includes Brazil, France and Belgium’s World Cup nemesis Argentina.

“There’s a real belief,” the Spaniard said. “There is no margin of error... But we’re going to do what we believe in.”

Dries Mertens, who is likely to be back alongside Eden Hazard in support of Lukaku after Martinez fielded a virtual reserve team against England, said the players were well aware that they had come up short in the past four years.

The Red Devils scraped through at this stage of the 2014 World Cup against the United States, winning 2-1 after extra time, midfielder Dries Mertens recalled, then lost the quarter-final 1-0 to Argentina.

“And remember the Wales game,” he said of their 3-1 Euro 2016 quarter-final loss.
“Everyone thought we’d go through - we went out. We have that on our minds and it gives us strength.”

Monday's match all times CLT:

4:00pm             Brazil vs Mexico
8:00pm             Belgium vs Japan


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