- Group G winners Belgium take on the runners-up from Group H Japan at 2:00pm EST on Monday, July 2nd
- Can Romelu Lukaku and his Red Devils teammates keep scoring?
- Will Japan regain momentum after backing into the Knockout Stages?
Belgium were one of only three teams to post perfect 3-0-0 records through Group Stage play. 3-0 and 5-2 routes over Panana and Tunisia were preceded by a 1-0 “win” over England in their final match. Both squads fielding heavily rotated lineups having each already qualified for this round. However Belgium were the team that showed a little more through a 51′ minute goal from Adnan Januzaj.
The benefit of the win is debatable. While it will surely build confidence and momentum, it also places them likely in the crosshairs of Brazil in a potential Quarter-Finals matchup. The Red Devils of Belgium will have to face Japan before that potential matchup though.
In 2014 Belgium were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals. Their best-ever showing in the tournament came via a fourth-place finish in 1986.
The Japanese became the first team to benefit from FIFA’s new “Fair Play” rule. Finishing Group H with a 1-1-1 record they were tied with Senegal. Having the same goal-differential, total goals scored and having drawn with Senegal 2-2 earlier, meant the next tie-breaker was yellow cards.
With Japan having received only four yellows, compared to Senegal’s six, Japan advanced to the Round of 16. Japan’s one win came in their opening match against Colombia. They fell 1-0 to Poland in their final match.
The Japanese became the first team to benefit from FIFA’s new “Fair Play” rule, advancing to the Round of 16 by having less yellow cards than Senegal.
The Samurai Blue have become regulars in World Cup play since 1998 when they failed to advance past the Group Stage. The Round of 16 has been their high point though, having made it there in 2002 and alternating between exits in the Group Stage and the Round of 16 in each of the following World Cups.
Will Belgium keep scoring?
The competition may not have been elite but Belgium has looked full value as one of the favorites in the World Cup futures markets to win the tournament. They’ve done what was expected of them and were in a position to rest most of their squad in their final match against England. There was some discussion if the Group G standings would come down to Fair Play rankings, but Belgium’s second half goal ended that possibility.
Star striker Lukaku has been a scoring machine with four of Belgium’s nine goals. He’s scored every way he can, with two off the left foot, one from the right and one headed goal. Eden Hazard has also factored prominently in the team’s scoring with two goals and one assist. Dries Mertens is third in team scoring with a goal and an assist.
The Red Devils should be well rested. They will also have all of Lukaku, and defenders Thomas Vermaelen and captain Vincent Kompany recovered from injuries. Kompany made his first appearance in the tournament in the 74′ minute against England after coming off a groin injury.
Belgium captain Vincent Kompany made his first appearance in the tournament in the 74′ minute against England. He had been recovering from a groin injury.
Japan back into Knockout Round
Japan got their tournament off on the right foot with a 2-1 win over Colombia who were favorites to win Group H. With Colombia having a man sent off and conceding a penalty only six minutes into the game, it would have been a huge dissapointment for them to not pick up the three points.
Their match against Senegal offered plenty for both sets of fans and neutrals alike in a wild 2-2 draw. Japan fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits but were outshot 15-7 and 7-3 in shots/shots on target.
Against an already eliminated Poland and potentially needing a result to advance, Japan offered little and lost 1-0. In fact once they realized Senegal was losing to Colombia, the final 20 minutes of their match became about kicking the ball around and not allowing anymore goals.
Japan’s leading offensive players in the World Cup have been Keisuke Honda and Takashi Inui. They each have a goal and an assist.
World Cup Stats
|22||Total Shots On Target||12|
Belgium -1.5 (+125)
Team Goals Belgium Over 2 (EVEN)
Belgium & Over 2.5 Game Goals (+120)
Anytime Goal Scorer – Lukaku (-110)
Much like Belgium’s competition in Group G, on paper this has the potential to be one of, if not the most lopsided match in the Round of 16.
Belgium are currently ranked third in the world. Japan ranks 61st—only ahead of the 70th ranked Russians, of teams still in the tournament. The odds are well reflected with this in that Japan are currently huge +20000 odds to lift the trophy at via Bovada.
The Belgiums have been firing at will with the third-most shots (53) and most shots on target (22). By comparison Japan is 23rd in shots (31) and only have 12 on target. The Japanese are also one of only two teams (Argentina), to advance to the Knockout Rounds with only four points.
Belgium vs Japan Odds via Bovada
|BEL||-1.5 (+125)||-260||2.5 (EVEN) O||-575|
|JPN||+1.5 (-150)||+800||2.5 (-120) U||+400|