Belgium v Japan preview: Battle for World Cup quarter-finals in Rostov
Belgium just have one injury concern as Japan look to reach last eight for first time
Last Updated: 02/07/18 5:50pm
Belgium will have a refreshed side to choose from as they face Japan in the World Cup round of 16 in Rostov on Monday night.
Roberto Martinez left most of his first-choice players on the bench on Thursday against England, but still came away with a 1-0 victory to uphold their 100 per cent record in Group G.
Belgium are looking to reach the quarter-finals for only the second time since 1986, while Japan have never reached the last eight of the tournament, appearing at this stage two times previously.
Belgium impressed in the group stage, scoring nine goals,
Thomas Meunier, Jan Vertonghen, Kevin De Bruyne, Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker are on yellow cards for Belgium and would miss the last eight with another booking, while Japan's Kawashima, Hasebe, Tomoaki Makino and Takashi Inui are in the same position.
Martinez has a near-full squad to choose from for the clash, with Adnan Januzaj the only potential absentee due to a bruised knee.
Martinez said: "Januzaj picked up a little knock in training, nothing serious. But he's got a bit of a bruised knee and we'll have to assess him."
Vincent Kompany could start for the first time at this World Cup, but Dedryck Boyata or Thomas Vermaelen will step in if the Man City man is not yet ready.
Meanwhile, Japan expect to have skipper Makoto Hasebe back in midfield and both wide man Takashi Inui and striker Yuya Osako could also get starts.
However, Leicester City forward Shinji Okazaki is struggling with an ankle problem.
- Belgium have reached the knockout stages of the World Cup for the sixth time in their last seven participations, the only exception coming in 1998. They will be looking to reach the quarter-finals for the third time in their history after 1986 and 2014.
- Belgium have never kept a clean sheet in their 11 knockout games at the World Cup, losing eight of them (W2 D1). Also, five of their last nine knockout games have gone to extra-time, but only one has seen a penalty shoot-out (v Spain in 1986).
- Belgium scored more goals than any other team in this year's World Cup group stages (9). They were also one of three teams to win all three of their games (with Croatia and Uruguay).
- Belgium are unbeaten in their last 22 games (W17 D5), their last defeat dating back to September 2016 against Spain (0-2). As of the end of the group stages, only Spain were on a longer run amongst the 32 teams at the 2018 World Cup (23 games).
- Japan have failed to score in five of their last six World Cup games against European opponents (W1 D2 L3), with their only goals coming in a 3-1 victory over Denmark in 2010.
- Since making their World Cup debut in 1998, Japan have alternated between getting knocked out in the group stages (1998, 2006, 2014) and reaching the round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018). They have so far never made it past the last 16.
Paul Merson: Belgium have gone into the so-called harder side of the draw but in my opinion, if one team is going to beat Brazil it's Belgium. They have an arrogance about them and they will take the game to Brazil. First though, they've got to beat Japan and I'll think they'll do it comfortably. Fair play to Japan though because qualifying for the knockout stages of the World Cup is no mean feat. When you look at the teams that have gone home you realise it's a massive achievement. This is where it ends, though, as Belgium will be far too strong.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-0
Charlie Nicholas: I'm not convinced there are too many easy games in a World Cup. Japan are going to make things difficult for Belgium. Coming into this game on the back of a defeat to Poland, they are going to sit in and try and hit Belgium on the counter-attack. However, Belgium have the quality to eventually break Japan down. I'd imagine Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku actually quite enjoy these situations. For that reason, I'm backing those two to help Belgium wrap up a 3-0 victory.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-0