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Belgium look to live up to hype against Japan

03 July, 2018, 00:41 | Author: Lora Ball
  • Eden Hazard of Belgium during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group G match between England and Belgium

Nacer Chadli scored a stunning injury-time winnner as Belgium fought back from 2-0 down to defeat Japan 3-2 and advance to a World Cup quarter-final showdown with Brazil here Monday.

After beating England 1-0 in Kaliningrad to top Group G, Belgium booked a meeting with the Samurai Blue in Rostov-on-Don, with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.

Belgium and Japan set up this last 16 clash in differing, but equally odd, circumstances. Belgium's second string beat England's second string in a game that no one was entirely sure they wanted to win.

Kick-off is 7pm Nigerian time.

On a heartbreaking evening, Genki Haraguchi put Japan ahead early in the second half and then Takashi Inui added a second shortly after. And how many strikers can say they scored as many goals as Ronaldo at a single World Cup? Japan had 54 percent of the possession against Poland and fired 10 shots with three being on goal.

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Their path to a matchup to Belgium was lucky and they look like a side that will need the luck if they want to reach quarterfinals. That was the first major tournament for many of us, knockout matches have a lot to do with experience and can be complicated.

Japan have impressed so far in Russian Federation with a 2-1 win over Colombia and a 2-2 draw in an entertaining match against Senegal before a 0-1 defeat to Poland.

Nishino will have to decide whether to bring the creative trio of Kagawa, Honda and Inui, all of whom were rested against Poland in their last match, back into the side as goal-scoring chances are expected to be at a premium in the face of a mean Belgian backline.

Head coach Akira Nishino, meanwhile, revealed he has held lengthy conversations with goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima after some uncharacteristic mistakes in Japan's first two matches of the group stage.

"We will have to pay attention because they are used to causing teams problems in both boxes".

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Five minutes later Hazard crossed from the left and substitute Fellaini, sent on in the 65th minute for Dries Mertens, rose to head in from close range.

Roberto Martinez has several players on yellow cards - most notably centre back Jan Vertonghen, right back Thomas Meunier and creative midfielder Kevin de Bruyne.

The Japanese only just squeezed through, taking a route no team has ever taken out of a World Cup group.

Japan, on the other hand, have seen their national team play consistently at World Cup level for some two decades, but have never been able to go on a deep run at a major tournament like the World Cup.

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