Belgium pulled off the comeback of the World Cup on Monday, clawing their way back from two goals down with 20 minutes remaining to snatch a 3-2 win at the death.
The defeat of Japan also will have brought back strong memories for Everton supporters, who witnessed the trio of Roberto Martinez, Romelu Lukaku, and Marouane Fellaini at Goodison Park in recent years.
All three played a vital role in the Red Devils’ historic comeback and provided a reminder of what might have been for Toffees supporters.
Martinez, who managed Everton from 2013-2016, inspired the match with two unlikely substitutions that directly led to Belgium’s goals.
Down 2-0, the Spaniard threw on Nacer Chadli and former Blue Marouane Fellaini – moves that were maligned by many observers.
Fellaini (who spent five glorious seasons at Goodison before departing for Old Trafford in 2013) nodded home the equaliser, and Chadli swept in the stoppage winner with the last attack of the match.
In addition, former Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, who spent four years with the Toffees from 2013-2017, provided the delicate dummy that allowed Chadli a tap-in at the far post.
The last-16 win had a distinctive Merseyside taste to it, and Everton supporters could well rue the departures of all three involved with the Belgium set up.
Fellaini undoubtedly enjoyed his best football at Everton, playing in a more advanced midfield role and taking the league by storm with his powerful attacking displays.
Martinez divided opinion during his time in the north west, but perhaps should have been given more time to build on his early successes at Goodison.
And Lukaku was the perfect striker for Everton’s recent history, banging in 68 goals in 141 appearances and terrorising opposition backlines.
Everton supporters would most likely jump at the opportunity to have all three Red Devils back at Goodison Park, but for now will have to settle for watching them take on Brazil in the quarterfinals.
And that wasn’t all for the Everton-Belgium connections: following the full-time whistle, Everton youngster David Henen tweeted out his admiration for his former manager.
— David Henen (@HenenDavid) July 2, 2018
Henen, a Belgian youth international, was signed by Martinez on loan in 2014 and then permanently in 2015.
Nonetheless, the promising attacker appears destined to depart Goodison Park this summer as well, leaving the club short of yet another Belgian talent.