If you only followed the pattern, you would have known that Japan was going to find a way to sneak into the knockout rounds. Japan has made it to each of the last six World Cups, and they have alternated Group Stage crash-outs without a win to their credit with appearances in the Round of 16. They had the longest odds in Group H, but they were able to make it out and now they are Asia’s only representative in the elimination rounds. If the pattern holds true to form, they will get ousted by Belgium in this match, but Japan will aim to change that little bit of history.
The most anticipated sporting event in the world comes around once every four years, so don’t miss any of the 2018 World Cup. This match will take place at Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don at 2 p.m. ET on Monday, July 2, 2018. Catch every moment of the match live on FOX.
World Cup Round of 16 Betting Odds at BookMaker.eu
Belgium has looked sharp at the World Cup, and they were able to win all three of their Group Stage matches in order to top Group H. The Belgians hammered Panama 3-0 in their first match with a second half brace from Romelu Lukaku and followed that up by jumping on Panama early in a 5-2 victory. Lukaku and Eden Hazard each notched a brace in that match.
On Thursday, they faced England with the group on the line. There was rife speculation that both sides might aim to lose the match to get a much easier draw in terms of the bracket, but instead each country just emptied their bench. Belgium started nine players who are typically reserves, and Adnan Januzaj tallied in the 51st minute to give the Belgians a 1-0 win.
Japan backed into the knockout rounds in perhaps the most fortuitous way possible. The Samurai Blue got off to a great start at the World Cup, picking up a stunning 2-1 win over Colombia in the opener after a handball in the box left them up a man for 87 minutes. Japan drew Senegal 2-2 in their next match, and they needed only a point to ensure their spot in the knockout rounds in their match with Poland.
Rather than playing his typical starters, manager Akira Nishino decided to go very conservative with his line-up. He brought in plenty of defenders and parked the bus in hopes of a draw. The strategy blew up in his face when Poland scored, and from there they needed the match between Colombia and Senegal to not end in a draw in order to advance. Colombia bailed them out by beating Senegal, leaving Japan to advance on a fair play tiebreaker.
Matchup to Watch
Japan is likely to park the bus again in their match with Belgium. Belgium has one of the most dangerous attacks of any team at the World Cup. They have scored nine goals in three matches, and Lukaku has proven to be a terror with four goals to this point.
All of Belgium’s stars got some rest and were on held in reserve against England. That will give them fresh legs to continually test Japan’s back line, and they should be able to eventually find success. They can attack in a number of ways through a number of players.
Player to Watch
Shinji Kagawa will need to summon some magic in order to get Japan to advance instead of Belgium. Kagawa is the team’s most talented player, but his only goal came as the result of a penalty. He has been largely stifled, with Takashi Inui instead looking like Japan’s best player.
Free Soccer Betting Pick
Japan is 0-2 in the Round of 16 with a 1-0 loss to Turkey in 2002 and a loss in penalties to Paraguay in 2010. They would love to make history with their most successful World Cup yet, but even they understand the challenge that awaits them. This one won’t be close.
World Cup Round of 16 Odds: Belgium 3, Japan 0
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