Belgium vs Japan preview, betting tips and prediction
Over 3.5 goals @ 5/2 with Betfair
Belgium made short work of their group, sweeping aside the two weakest teams with their first XI before beating England to top spot with a much-changed side. It was a reminder of how much strength in depth Belgium have. Key players like Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne will return to the side for the knockout game against Japan. While it could be said that they’re on the tougher side of the draw, Belgium will fancy their chances.
Fair play to Japan on getting into the knockout stages by the skin of their teeth. Senegal became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated based on how many cards they picked up. It meant that Japan’s lacklustre display against Poland didn’t matter. They showed enough in the group stage for Akira Nishino to believe they can trouble Belgium but we just don’t see the last Asian side in the competition troubling Courtois, et al.
Lukaku sat out the England game but is one of the leading scorers in Russia thanks to the four goals he scored in wins over Panama and Tunisia. Regarded as something of a flat-track bully, Lukaku will be hungry to fill his boots against a Japanese defence that could be susceptible to roughhousing. Hazard and De Bruyne have also looked in fine. Roberto Martinez will be encouraged by the performances of his reserves with Fellaini and Januzaj getting goals.
Japan made the most of individual errors by Colombian and Senegalese players to pick up the points that they needed to qualify for the knockout phase. It could be argued that they created the environment for mistakes to be made with their boundless energy and high pressing. Much of their creativity depends on Shinji Kagawa, who could be shackled by Axel Witsel.
Belgium have a fully-fit squad.
Japan have no injury concerns.