The most impressive team in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup had to have been Belgium. They won Group G and were one of three teams to finish on nine points. The Belgians’ reward in Monday’s Round of 16 is a matchup with surprising Japan. Belgium is a heavy favorite on MyBookie Sportsbook World Cup odds to meet the winner of Brazil and Mexico – probably Brazil.
Belgium v Japan 2018 World Cup Preview & Round of 16 Prediction
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) 29 de junio de 2018
- When: Monday, 2 PM ET
- Where: Rostov Arena, Rostov-On-Don, Russia
- TV/Stream: Fox/Fox Sports Go
- 2018 World Cup Odds: Belgium -278 / Japan +750 / Draw +360 (Total at 2.5 goals)
Why Bet on Belgium?
- Confederation: UEFA
- Head Coach: Roberto Martínez
- Captain: Eden Hazard
- FIFA Ranking: 3
- World Cup Appearances: 13
The top spot on Group G was up for grabs on Thursday with both England and Belgium sitting on six points. In all honesty, finishing second in Group G was the better result simply for futures matchups – i.e. avoiding Brazil in the quarterfinals and the tougher half of the bracket.
However, Belgium, despite resting key players, beat the English 1-0. Adnan Januzaj scored the lone goal in the 51st minute; it was Belgium’s only shot of the second half. Belgium had 53 percent possession and 15 shots, four of which went on frame.
Januzaj’s goal was his first for Belgium in what was his ninth appearance for the national side. Januzaj has often been accused of coasting through his career, but the former Manchester United winger showed he can still make his mark at the top level with one of the goals of the tournament.
With both managers making wholesale changes having already secured qualification from the group, the two teams played with so little intensity during the first half that they were booed and jeered by local fans inside the ground at half-time.
Roberto Martinez made nine alterations, Michy Batshuayi leading the line and Thorgan Hazard starting, with brother Eden on the bench. Having seen first-half bookings for Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker cheered by Belgian fans keen to avoid a possible quarterfinal clash with Brazil — the bookings ensured Belgium would lose a fair play head-to-head with England — Januzaj’s curling strike was celebrated by the Belgians and their supporters.
Belgium has won all three of their group stage games in consecutive World Cup appearances, the first nation to do so since both Argentina and the Netherlands in 2010 and 2014. The Belgians have won seven straight World Cup group stage games overall. They’d won just eight of their previous 24 at that stage.
Entering play in Russia, Belgium assumed the role of the dark horse, a star-studded team led by Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City and Eden Hazard of Chelsea that had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals. This is a golden generation of Belgian players, and mostly the best players are all in their mid- and late 20s, the age at which soccer players generally enter their prime.
“I have always considered ourselves outsiders with an opportunity to win,” Belgium defender Thomas Vermaelen said.
- 1-T. Courtois
- 5-J. Vertonghen
- 2-T. Alderweireld
- 15-T. Meunier
- 20-D. Boyata
- 6-A. Witsel
- 7-K. De Bruyne
- 11-Y. Carrasco
- 10-E. Hazard
- 14-D. Mertens
- 9-R. Lukaku
Why Bet on Japan?
- Confederation: AFC
- Head coach: Akira Nishino
- Captain: Makoto Hasebe
- FIFA Ranking: 61
- World Cup Appearances: 6
Japan finished tied for second in Group H (won by Colombia) on four points with Senegal (those teams tied 2-2 earlier in the tournament). Japan closed the stage with a 1-0 loss to Poland. Japan needed just a point to ensure qualification for the knockout rounds but was undone by a Jan Bednarek header in the 59th minute at the Volgograd Stadium.
How did Japan win the tiebreaker over Senegal? On yellow cards. Akira Nishino’s side finished with the same number of points, goals scored and goals conceded as Senegal but were shown only four yellow cards during the group stage to the African side’s six. That made Senegal, which lost 1-0 to Colombia on Thursday, the first nation to ever be eliminated at the World Cup on the fair play rule.
Japan substitute Makoto Hasebe, who came on with eight minutes remaining, made a ‘card’ gesture to his teammates to make it clear they were through as it stood.
“We did not go for victory but we just relied on the other match,” said Nishino. “That was slightly regrettable but I suppose at that point I didn’t have any other plans. I am really not happy about how we played but we wanted to go through to the round of 16 and we have, and that is the only salvation that I get.
Poland, eliminated after losing two matches, also stood back – something Adam Nawalka explained by saying that his team had adopted a “low-press” for the entire match – rendering the final 10 minutes a non-event. At times in his post-match press conference, Nishino seemed to be trying to justify his actions to himself.
“When I put on [Makoto] Hasebe [in the 82nd minute] I told him what was in my mind: ‘Do not go for any high risks.’ I told him not to concede any yellow cards, go 4-1-4-1, defensive, and then I told him to tell the team to ‘stay put’. We could not concede another goal,” Nishino said.
Japan has failed to score in five of their last six World Cup games against European opponents (W1 D2 L3), with their only goals coming in a 3-1 victory over Denmark in 2010. Japan have qualified out of the World Cup group stage for the third time in their history, also doing so in 2002 and 2010.
Japan lost a friendly to Belgium last November, 1-0, as Belgian superstar Romelu Lukaku scored in the 72md minute, heading home a cross from Nacer Chadli. Substitute Kenyu Sugimoto had a left-footed shot saved in the 77th minute by Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
The last World Cup matchup between the teams was a 2-2 draw in 2002 in Japan.
- 1-E. Kawashima
- 22-M. Yoshida
- 5-Y. Nagatomo
- 19-H. Sakai
- 3-G. Shōji
- 17-M. Hasebe
- 14-T. Inui
- 10-S. Kagawa
- 8-G. Haraguchi
- 7-G. Shibasaki
- 15-Y. Ōsako
Expert Final Score Prediction
Belgium 2 – Japan 1