Neymar celebrates his first-half goal for Brazil. (Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

My piece about the Brazil-Mexico Round of 16 match has been rudely interrupted by what transpired at the Belgium-Japan game.

We’ll get to that in a while, if I don’t run out of words or superlatives.

If you missed the Belgians’ classic 3-2 comeback triumph over the Japanese, then shame on you!

Didn’t you take the day off? Or the afternoon off? Or didn’t you have your computer or phone switched to the game?

Man, and you call yourself a soccer fan?

Seriously, I understand if you didn’t because we all have to pay the bills.

But you missed one of the greatest second halves, if not one of the greatest games in World Cup history.

Let’s set things up in this winner-take-all confrontation:

After a competitive opening half, Japan took over early on in the final 45 minutes, stunning the European side with strikes by Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui in the 48th and 52nd minutes, respectively.

Then it was up for the Japanese to control the game and find a way to leave Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Ron in one piece. Of course, the Belgians had something to say about that.

The second goal woke up Europeans, who pushed up and up and up before they equalized behind scores by Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini-Bakkioui in the 69th and 74th minutes, respectively.

That made way for a potential rousing finish. After Sunday’s marathon matches, I think we all all were praying there would be no extratime and especially no penalty kicks to decide the matter.

Our prayers and those of the Belgians and their supporters were answered in dramatic fashion as Belgium quickly cleared a corner kick deep into stoppage time.

Goalkeeper Thibault Courtois rolled the ball to Kevin De Bruyne, who dribbled to the top of the center circle before passing to Thomas Meunier on the right side. Meunier sent the ball across the area. Romelu Lukaku let it roll by for second-half substitute Nacer Chadli to tap in with his left foot from seven yards just at the end of the fourth added minute.

After the usual time for celebration, the ball was brought back to the center spot as Japan kicked off and then the referee blew his whistle twice.

It made for one of the great finishes in World Cup history.

Yours truly has been watching World Cup matches since 1978 and there haven’t been many, if any, matches with that much packed in with such a dramatic and entertaining finish like this one.

Yeah, we wish many games could be played with that intensity and skill and drama, but we have to cherish the times when we get to witness the best the beautiful game can offer.

Both teams did their part, although you have to feel for Japan.

BTW, if the winning goal sounds familiar, well, it should.

I had this deja vu feeling watching it as memories of Landon Donovan’s 11th-hour goal against Algeria propelled the United States from third to first place in the Final group stage match at the 2010 World Cup.

I will quote my story in the New York Daily News the next day, so there won’t be any revisionist history on the goal:

The sequence took 12 seconds.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard saved a seven-yard header by Rafik Saifi and threw the ball to the right side to Donovan, who raced up the field unmarked. He led Jozy Altidore with a pass, and the former Red Bull touched it to Clint Dempsey, who took a shot as goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi slid in to stop the drive.

The ball came to Donovan, who slotted it home from seven yards.

And a word to the wise: don’t expect the rest of the knockout round to come close to the Belgium-Japan affair. Games like this come once in a blue moon at the World Cup. That shouldn’t stop you from praying or wishing for a classic or two over the next 13 days.

As for El Tri … sigh!

What started out as a promising and encouraging World Cup deteriorated into one in which the coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, complained about the histrionics of Neymar that disturbed his team’s play and rhythm.

That’s ridiculous.

The Mexicans have no one to blame but themselves.

They teased us with a brilliant 1-0 triumph over defending champion Germany (of course, you can make a case that the result has been less significant due to the Germans’ inability to get out of the opening round in one piece).

The 2-1 win over the Republic of Korea was workmanlike and wasn’t anything special. Needing a draw to win the group and avoid the big, bad Brazilians, Mexico self-immolated against Sweden, losing 3-0.

Upending Brazil at a World Cup is a challenging task for most teams, so Osorio’s men had their work cut out for them. They actually played well in the first half with former Red Bulls defender-midfielder Rafa Marquez, playing in his record-tying fifth World Cup, performing at defensive midfield. But the 39-year-old Marquez was replaced at the half and it looked like the Mexicans’ rhythm was out of sync. They paid the price.

Osorio, a former Red Bulls head coach, complained about Neymar’s poor acting. Well, his team fouled him enough and remember, Miguel Layun stomped on the Brazilian’s ankle.

“Unfortunately, it’s a shame we wasted a lot of time because of one single player,” Osorio said. “This is a real shame for football. We lost our style in the second half, due to the referee’s style of too many stoppages and my players got tired of that situation.

“There was a situation where there was a four-minute stoppage and that’sa poor example for the world of football and all the children. It’s a strong sport, a man’s sport and I think there shouldn’t be so much acting.”

Ahem, it’s also a woman’s sport, but that’s a story for another time.

I agree that Neymar is a poor actor and should never be nominated for any Academy Award. He shouldn’t be writhing around in pain like that, but that isn’t the reason why Brazil beat Mexico.

It was because of Neymar’s kicks instead of him getting kicked. He scored one goal and set up another.

The gut feeling here was that Osorio was trying to steer away any criticism on him or his team because Mexico’s streak of failing to reach the fifth game of a World Cup for a confounding seventh consecutive tournament.

Sorry, it didn’t work here.

Given the Mexican Football Federation’s history of changing coaches as quickly as some people change underwear, don’t expect Osorio to return.

But don’t cry for Juan Carlos. He will have plenty of suitors, and perhaps the U.S. Soccer Federation.

At least Osorio and Mexico got to the dance to be criticized, second guessed and make excuses.