KAZAN - Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has admitted he has no secrets as he plots to end Brazil's bid for a record-extending sixth World Cup ahead of their "dream" quarter-final in Kazan on Friday.

But the nation's "Golden Generation" have been reminded that the match against the favourites could represent the last chance for them to shine on the world stage. "It's a dream match for our players," Martinez told Belgian press after sealing qualification for the last eight with a last-gasp 3-2 victory over Japan in the first phase of the knockout rounds.

"There won't be many secrets to the game. We have to defend as well as we can and then punish them when we have the ball. It's that simple, and this team is ready for that."

On paper, a Belgium side containing the talents of Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City and Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku have the potential to cause a World Cup upset.

But despite sailing through the group stage, Martinez's ambitious Red Devils have their work cut out if they are to go all the way to the July 15 final in Moscow. Third-ranked Belgium reached the quarter-finals in 2014 in Brazil but before that the last time they got so far was in 1986, when 'Little Prince' Frank Vercauteren steered them to the semi-finals before a Diego Maradona double ended their hopes in a 2-0 defeat in Mexico.

Vercauteren said before the tournament that Russia represented "perhaps one of the last chances for this generation of players to live up to expectations, because in 2022 a lot of them won't be there". On Monday, Belgium mounted a stirring fightback to beat Japan, with Nacer Chadli scoring the winner in the 94th minute.

Becoming the first team in 48 years to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a World Cup knockout match was a "proud" moment for Martinez, who said: "That was a test for the team and its character."

Despite scoring nine times in wins over Panama (3-0), Tunisia (5-2) and England (1-0) before the Japan game, Belgium will have to lift their game significantly to beat a well-drilled Brazil side increasingly dancing to the tune of star forward Neymar.

Neymar signalled he had well and truly put a recent injury lay-off behind him with an incisive performance in a 2-0 win over Mexico in Samara, where he scored the opener and set up Roberto Firmino for his maiden World Cup goal. Even more is expected from Neymar, whose pace, technique and all-round vision allied to Willian's slick movement gave Brazil another dimension.

For all Brazil's attacking riches, Belgium's biggest problem could be piercing a robust defence that has conceded just once, in their 1-1 opening draw with Switzerland. Brazil centre-back pairing Joao Miranda and Thiago Silva have been solid and will aim to keep it that way as the five-time champions target a place in the semi-finals and a match with either France or Uruguay.

"We're progressing, that's evident," Silva said after their win over Mexico. "It was a complicated match against a dangerous side, but we were solid at the back." Mistakes such as the ones that allowed Japan to grab a two-goal lead are sure to be punished by Neymar but it is Brazil's defence that is also catching the eye of observers.

"As a former defender, I love watching Silva and Miranda play," former France defender William Gallas said in his role as a consultant for French radio station RMC. "They're the best centre back partnership of this World Cup."

De Bruyne's deployment could be critical: If Kevin De Bruyne is having a quiet World Cup, as some pundits have suggested, it can only be because expectations surrounding the Belgium playmaker are so incredibly high. The midfielder’s highlights reel from Russia would certainly feature the exquisite cross with the outside of the boot that allowed Romelu Lukaku to head home Belgium’s second goal in their opener against Panama. In the round of 16 against Japan, it was De Bruyne’s surging 60-metre run out of defence that created the last-gasp winner for Nacer Chadli to seal a remarkable comeback and send the Red Devils into their quarter-final against Brazil.

Add to that his composure under pressure as well as his calming influence on Belgium’s more excitable talents when the chips are down and you have a tournament many players would be proud of. To be fair to his critics, though, what the midfield maestro has not been able to do in Russia is dictate play in the last third of the pitch as he has done so successfully at club level for Manchester City.

De Bruyne, the creative heart of Pep Guardiola’s team, was directly involved in nearly a quarter of their 106 goals as they romped to the English Premier League title this year. In Russia, though, coach Roberto Martinez has played him in central midfield with anchor Axel Witsel, a deeper role that has not allowed him the freedom to get into forward positions.

With all due respect to Panama, Tunisia and Japan, the Belgians are well aware they will need a lot more creativity in attack if they are to unpick one of the meanest defences in the tournament on Friday. It may well be, though, that in Belgium’s desperation to claw their way back from 2-0 down against Japan in Rostov-on-Don that Martinez chanced upon his best formation.

Chadli and Marouane Fellaini were brought on and the latter slotted in alongside Witsel, allowing De Bruyne, who up until that point had been shut down by Japan, more freedom to roam without compromising his defence. Some 25 minutes later and the biggest comeback in a World Cup knockout match for nearly half a century - since West Germany’s 3-2 victory over England in the 1970 quarterfinals - was complete but Martinez knows that Belgium cannot afford to give the five-times world champions any kind of start on Friday.

The Spaniard must get his formation absolutely right from the start - and that may mean unshackling De Bruyne and giving him a licence to roam.