Today at the World Cup: Monday, July 2
Five-time champions Brazil take on Mexico, before high-scoring Belgium face Japan
By Sky Sports Football
Last Updated: 02/07/18 3:04pm
The knockout stages of the World Cup continue on Monday with two more huge last-16 encounters in Russia.
Each morning during the tournament we will bring you an overview of what is coming up...
Who's playing today?
Brazil v Mexico (Last 16) - Samara, 3pm
Belgium v Japan (Last 16) - Rostov, 7pm
What's the deal?
Thiago Silva has backed Neymar to follow in the footsteps of Paris Saint-Germain team-mates Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani by shining in the World Cup knockout stages.
"Yesterday (Saturday), when the (France and Uruguay) games were over, I thought the same thing, that Neymar will have his way in our match," said Silva at Brazil's pre-match press conference.
"In the right moments, we have the right freedom for the strikers to do what they do best. We hope tomorrow (Monday) is going to be a great and Neymar is inspired as well as the other players."
Mexico, meanwhile, helped eliminate defending champions Germany in the group stages as they reached the last 16 for the seventh successive World Cup.
They appeared on course to top Group F before a 3-0 defeat to Sweden in their third match left them in second place and facing a tough tie against Brazil.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio described Brazil as the best team in the world, but insists his players will attack, despite the tricky draw.
"We won't sit back and wait, Brazil's attackers are too good for that to be the right plan," said the Colombian.
"We will stick to our idea of having at least four or five attacking players. I really think this is going to be a great opportunity for Mexican football to face, in the round of 16, the best team on the planet."
Later on Monday, Japan take on Belgium and the Asian side have the spirit and mentality to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history, according to boss Akira Nishino.
Japan have reached the first knockout round twice before - in 2002 and 2010 - but hope to go one better in Rostov against the highly-fancied European side.
"Japan had fantastic performances to reach the round of 16 (in 2002 and 2010), but those teams were exhausted by that stage, there wasn't anything left, especially in 2002," said Nishino.
Ones to watch...
Philippe Coutinho: The Barcelona playmaker has been Brazil's standout performer so far at the tournament, scoring twice and assisting one more goal in his side's run to the last 16.
The former Liverpool star opened Brazil's account at Russia 2018 with a sublime curler to break the deadlock against Switzerland, before coming to his team's rescue with a stoppage-time strike to open the scoring against minnows Costa Rica in their second Group E clash.
And the 26-year-old also reminded the watching world of his wonderful vision and passing abilities when slipping Paulinho clean through on goal in their final group-stage win over Serbia last week, so Mexico know who they have to keep a close eye on in Samara on Monday afternoon.
Javier Hernandez: The fox in the box is his country's all-time record goalscorer having found the back of the net on 50 occasions in just 105 internationals.
The last of those strikes helped the North Americans secure a crucial 2-1 win over South Korea that ultimately saw them qualify for the knockout phase of the competition in second place in Group F.
If Mexico are to cause a huge upset and eliminate Brazil on Monday, though, then they will need the experienced West Ham United frontman to be at his poaching best.
Kevin De Bruyne: Belgium are likely to have a lot of the ball when they come up against Japan in Rostov on Monday night, which means the role of the Manchester City midfielder could be crucial in unlocking a packed opposition defence.
The 27-year-old may have only contributed one assist so far at the World Cup, but his manager Roberto Martinez thinks his star man deserves more recognition.
"De Bruyne has been underestimated in this World Cup so far," he said. "When you're looking at his contribution in our team, it's one of those contributions that is a deciding contribution. He gels everything together."
So Japan beware...
Also look out for...
Will Neymar follow Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the airport?
Two of the world's three most celebrated footballers - Argentina's Lionel Messi and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo - exited the World Cup on Saturday just hours apart, as Argentina suffered a 4-3 defeat against France and European champions Portugal lost 2-1 to Uruguay.
The third member of football's most acclaimed triumvirate - Brazil striker Neymar - will hope to avoid the same fate when his team tackle Mexico. Neymar and Brazil should march on, but Russia 2018 has been crammed with tales of the unexpected.
Mexico have shown they are not daunted by Brazil's brilliance
Of all the many statistics that accompany Monday's encounter, two stand out. Brazil have never lost to Mexico in a World Cup tournament, scoring 11 goals during that run of victories. However, when it comes to recent head to heads in all competitions, Mexico have proved largely unfazed. Although Mexico have not reached the World Cup quarter-finals since 1986, their last 15 games against Brazil have produced seven victories, two draws and just five defeats.
Belgium unlikely to see goals dry up
Martinez's team have been in free-scoring form in the tournament so far, hitting nine goals during the pool phase. They are set to welcome back Man Utd striker Romelu Lukaku after injury against Japan, and with Eden Hazard pulling the strings it would be a surprise if their three goals a game average is not maintained at Japan's expense.
Japan will be history makers if they win
Nashino has taken his team to the verge of a best World Cup showing in their history. The last time Japan reached a World Cup last 16, they lost to Paraguay in South Africa eight years ago, with a quarter-final place having never previously been accomplished. They have their work cut out, but the possibility of a last-eight clash against Brazil should inspire them.
Stat of the day
Brazil last failed to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup back in 1990. Since then, they've always made it to the last eight of the tournament.
On this day
England finished the World Cup finals in Brazil with a disappointing result (sounds familiar!). A 1-0 defeat against Spain meant elimination at the group stage in their first World Cup Finals and the realisation that English football wasn't the best in the world. The Daily Herald printed a mock obituary: 'In affectionate remembrance of English football which died in Rio on July 2, 1950.'
Fantasy Football is back!
Fantasy just got real. Pick your Sky Sports Fantasy Football team for free here.