FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 – Belgium vs Japan PREVIEW
Contending Belgium meet one of the best underdog stories in the tournament so far. Belgium have looked dominant, whereas Japan overcame a very tough group to advance to R16 and now look to reach their first ever quarter final. Will Belgium continue to show their dominance at this world cup, or will Japan shock the world and reach their first ever World Cup quarter final?
So far so good for Belgium. They’ve been dominant and have scored goals for fun. They topped Group G which featured England, Tunisia and Panama. Now some may say they only beat Tunisia, Panama and when they played England both sides played their B team, but you can’t pick your opponents and Belgium have done well enough against the teams they’ve played. In the first game Belgium beat Panama 3-0 in a game where they looked average to start, but eventually turned it on and destroyed their opponent. In the second game, Belgium played amazing beating Tunisia 5-2. Every Belgian star showed up for that game and a team they were simply amazing. In the final game Belgium beat England 1-0. Both teams rested their stars in that game playing B teams and if anything we’ve learnt from that game is that Belgium have good depth and they have backup players that can deliver when called up such as Januzaj, Tielemans and Batshuayi. Now as mentioned, Belgium have been scoring goals for fun, their attacking play has been sensational whether its been the first team or the B team. Lukaku has scored goals for fun scoring 4 in 2 games that he played, Hazard and Mertens have been great and KDB has had his moments. As for B team attacking players, Tielemans and Januzaj have looked very good. Now onto the weaknesses. Belgium’s weakness has been their backline. At the back they’ve been a little exposed, especially in the Tunisia game. They don’t have an actual left back which means a winger has to start at LWB which is either Carrasco or Thorgan Hazard and they’re not know for defending. There has been a boost concerning Belgium’s backline however with Kompany returning to the side. Now they can replace the shaky Boyata with Kompany and have 3 top class CBs in Vertonghen Aldeiweireld and Kompany which should strengthen the backline for Belgium. Overall, Belgium have been one of the best teams in the tournament and will look to win it all now.
One of the surprise sides of the tournament. Japan have surprisingly overcame Group H and advanced into R16 as the biggest underdog of their group. Japan have shown that they can play good football, they’ve been very lucky but they have been quite exciting going forward and shown to have players who can truly create. Japan started off with a 2-1 win against Colombia which you could say was lucky with James not coming on until the 75th minute due to a slight injury and Colombia down to 10 men for nearly the whole game, but Japan did take their opportunity and won the opening game against the best team in the group which instantly opened up their chances of advancing. In the second game it was a little tougher, Japan faced Senegal and they didn’t get the luck of playing 10 men for nearly the whole game. However, Japan played decent they were down in the game twice, but pulled it back both times and it finished 2-2. It was a good result against a very tough side and Japan showed good mental strength to overcome being down twice. In the final game, we saw Japan surprisingly rotate players and it led to a very poor performance. With key men Inui, Kagawa, Osako all benched. It was a weird decision by the coach Nishino to bench all his best players going forward and it nearly cost Japan the place in R16. Not only did they lose 0-1 to Poland but they were awful, they didn’t create anything and that loss meant Japan needed either Colombia or Senegal to win the other game and with the score at 0-0 until the 75th minute Japan were in position of being eliminated, but they survived thanks to a Colombian goal which kept Japan second in the group and they advanced due to a better disciplinary record than Senegal meaning they had less bookings. What a weird way to advance.
Japan have shown as mentioned good football going forward for pretty much the whole tournament other than against Poland. Their main man has been Inui who’s been very good for Japan making chances and scoring a goal himself. Furthermore Kagawa and Osako have been decent, Nagatomo has been very going on the left side bombing forward and defending while Keisuke Honda has been their super sub delivering an assist for the winning goal against Colombia and scoring an equaliser against Senegal. However, defensively Japan have been cut open a few times, they haven’t defended too well and their goalkeeper Kawashima has been shaky. Overall, Japan with a bit of luck have already exceeded their expectations and any win now is just a bonus for them.
This is a game where you have to expect Japan to change their game plan, instead of preferred possession football we’ll see them having to play defensive. Given the talented players that Belgium have, Japan simply cant afford to be throwing bodies forward because Hazard, de Bruyne, Mertens, Lukaku would instantly expose them. For Japan to pose threat they must try to exploit the Belgian left side. Belgium don’t have a left back and Carrasco has been terrible at the back, every chance that Belgian opponents have had so far have pretty much come from the left side which is something Japan can expose. Japan will be expected to bring back Inui and Kagawa into the lineup. As for Belgium, expect them to play the same team that started against Panama and Tunisia except that Kompany might replace Boyata at CB to strengthen their backline since he’s back from injury. Keys for Belgium are to just play the way they have so far, they’ve been scoring for fun against Japan level opposition like Tunisia so if their creative guns play at their best they’ll win. Kevin de Bruyne must get involved further forward. At the back Belgium’s midfielders and centre backs must help protect the left side due to lack of any actual left backs and Carrasco being awful on that side. Japan have to be organised, they can’t allow spaces to open up for Belgium forwards and they have to take whatever chances they get going forward. Belgium are the massive favourites here, they’re the ones who will be put under a lot of pressure whereas Japan can play with freedom knowing they have already achieved their goal and anything else now is a bonus which is an advantage for Japan. An early goal is something Belgium will need to get to lift the pressure off. Expect Belgium to be on the front foot throughout the whole of the game.
Can’t see anything other than a Belgium win in this game. Belgium have looked tremendous, they’ve been scoring with ease, they have far too many game changers for Japan. Japan are really here by luck, a 10 men Colombia pretty much without James, advancing due to a better disciplinary record pretty much tells the story. Sure, Japan have good attacking players, but not on the level that Belgium’s stars are. You would expect Belgium’s defence to shut Japan down because that back 3 is elite even with suspect full backs they’re good enough to hold Japan off. Belgium are in great form, their second team would probably win against Japan, let alone the first. Expect this to be a drubbing. Lukaku Hazard Mertens and de Bruyne will put on a show against this below average Japanese defence and Belgium will win 3-0.
ODDS – Decimal
Belgium Win (90 mins) – 1.36
Draw (90 mins) – 5.00
Japan Win (90 mins) – 10.50
To Qualify – Belgium 1.14 – Japan 5.50
KICK OFF – 2nd July 2018 – 7pm UK Time