Fifa World Cup - Russia 2018

Belgium vs Japan match build up #WorldCup

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has declared Romelu Lukaku “fully fit” after an ankle injury ruled the striker out of the win over England. Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany are vying to take Dedryck Boyata’s place at centre-back.

Japan captain Makoto Hasebe is set to return in midfield, while winger Takashi Inui and centre-forward Yuya Osako may also earn recalls. Belgium Striker Shinji Okazaki is a doubt with an ankle injury.


Belgium and Japan set up this last 16 clash in differing, but equally odd, circumstances. Belgium’s second string beat England’s second string in a game that no one was entirely sure they wanted to win. Roberto Martinez’s side emerged victorious and now find themselves in the potentially unfavourable side of the draw alongside Brazil and France.

The last 10 minutes of Japan’s final group game against Poland was nothing short of farcical. Coach Akira Nishino ordered his side to shut up shop and not give away any bookings in the hope that a 1-0 defeat would be enough to see them qualify.

It was, and they became the first team in World Cup history to progress because of fair play, having accrued fewer yellow cards than Senegal. It did little to endear the Japanese to neutral football fans who watched a game concluded at walking pace to a chorus of catcalls and boos.

This is only the third time the Blue Samurai have reached the knockout stage of the World Cup, after 2002 and 2010. They now face a Belgium side who scored more goals than any other team in the group stage.


Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez: “I think there is a belief; we’ve been undefeated for a long long time.”

“There is a real understanding among the players and it’s an opportunity to face the best teams in the world… I think we’ve done everything we can as a group to prepare ourselves.”

Japan head coach Akira Nishino on his decision to make his side play defensively against Poland: “In that moment, I had to make a decision on our tactical direction.

“[Spectators] were short-changed 10 minutes, and they probably got a little less mileage than usual out of the first 80 minutes. So I want to pay people back [against Belgium].”


When Belgium have played their strongest side they have not struggled to create chances but, even then, they have not looked like the cohesive unit they will need to be to go far in this tournament.

Roberto Martinez’s side will win this tie, though, because I don’t think Japan will be able to cope with their attacking power.

Prediction: 2-0

Source: BBC News


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