The World Cup knockout stages have already provided us with some major drama and big shocks and Belgium will hope they aren’t the latest to fall. The European side host Japan and will be strong favourites to progress given the gulf in class between the two nations on paper. Roberto Martinez’ men were one of few nations to pick up maximum points from the group stage and going forward they have been a jot to watch at times.
Admittedly, Belgium were handed a very easy group in terms of finishing in the top two but they still made light work of beating Panama and then Tunisia. That meant they’d secured qualification by the second game but a reserve side still beat England to end the group on a high, although it may not have benefitted them to do so.
Meanwhile, Japan have exceeded all expectations by qualifying for the last 16. They weren’t expected to do much in Group H and in the end only progressed at the expense of Senegal thanks to having a better disciplinary record, but they are here nonetheless. They are a capable side on the ball but will need to be clinical going forward and stronger defensively to stop a much-fancied Belgium side.
Here we will give you Belgium vs Japan betting tips, look at where the game will be won, the key players and a Belgium vs Japan prediction for the last 16 clash.
Our Belgium vs Japan Prediction: Belgium 3-0 Japan
Our Belgium vs Japan prediction tips is for a routine win for the European side that could set up a mouthwatering quarter-final clash with Brazil.
Throughout Martinez’ reign as Belgium boss they have blown away inferior opponents because of the expansive 3-4-3 formation that he adopts which means they have so many quality attacking players on the pitch. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens are all there to provide for Romelu Lukaku and they can overwhelm weaker sides. Unfortunately for Japan, they are a weaker side. They won’t get the ball much against the Belgians, they will get pinned back and it could be a long night for them.
Yet, Belgian do give you chances, largely because of that all-out attacking formation. The left wing-back, Yannick Carrasco, does not like defending and they give space in advanced midfield roles that the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Takashi Inui could exploit. However, the problem may be getting the ball to those players as the side is sure to be under pressure.
Our recommended tip – Belgium -1
Belgium’s attacking talent should have far too much for a Japanese side that are probably out of their depth at this stage of the competition and we think they will win by at least two goals.
As mentioned, this is a Belgian side that love to attack and go after the opposition from the off. They are full of so many quality players and will be a major test to any defence. That could be their undoing as they go further in the tournament as there are question marks about the balance of the team as a whole but the individual brilliance is often enough for them to go through.
De Bruyne will pull the strings from deep, whilst Hazard has been menacing so far and is getting the ball in crucial areas. They still haven’t performed superbly over 90 minutes but averaged three goals a game in the group and against Tunisia they were incredible for a spell. Japan are a decent side and will get joy on the break but ultimately it’s a game that Belgium’s quality should tell in and we expect them to net a few goals.
The clash in Rostov will be just the sixth meeting between the sides and the second at a World Cup, with the nations drawing 2-2 back in 2002 when the Japanese were co-hosts of the tournament.
As for recent performances, Belgium are very tough to judge. They took their time but eventually comfortably beat a weak Panama side before thumping Tunisia 5-2 when they could’ve hit double figures. Whilst that was impressive in a sense, they are two very poor sides and you can’t read much into it. Similarly, the win over England was essentially a reserve game and whilst it highlights the depth Belgium have, they still haven’t had a proper test yet.
Whereas, Japan are rather fortunate to be in the last 16. A win over Colombia was huge but came because of an early red-card and penalty to the South Americans, whilst a draw with Senegal was a good result in a decent game. However, they lost to already eliminated Poland in the last game and memorably played out the final ten minutes to ensure they lost 1-0 without picking up another card, meaning they went through because Senegal had picked up more cautions. It worked, as they progressed but Japan have not done anything to suggest they can compete with Belgium and have had a lot of luck so far.
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Players to watch – Romelu Lukaku & Takashi Inui
Whilst Belgium have a host of fantastic players that contribute more in general play, their focal point and main goalscorer is Manchester United’s Lukaku. He gives them a real cutting edge and adds another dimension with his pace, strength and ability to bring others into play. If they need to go direct, want to put crosses in the box or change their style he is ideal. Yet, they are also capable of passing through teams and he is invariably in the right position to finish off moves. Lukaku will have one eye on the golden boot and will want to be at his ruthless best.
For Japan it will all be about hitting Belgium on the counter and exploiting the space they are sure to leave and the key man for that will be Inui who has just moved to Betis. He has pace, is direct in his style and scores a lot of goals for a wide man. He will try and push the wing-backs into more defensive positions and could be vital to helping his nation get some relief from defending, as well as producing moments of quality in those transitions.