Belgium vs Japan
If you point a gun to any football fan’s head and demand which knockout game of the 2018 World Cup is the easiest to predict and the safest to bet on, most of them will say Belgium vs Japan without so much as even a blink.
This is probably the most lopsided match in the eight games that will be played in the knockout stages, and that claim comes with good reason.
In Belgium, you have one of the most impressive attacking sides in Russia. A dangerous side that can easily overwhelm with you with a beautiful lob past your defensive line and fire a blazing ball past your defending goalkeeper. This squad has its Golden Generation of players playing successful football all around the world.
Meanwhile, Japan are the last team you’d expect to make it far into the competition. The Samurai Blue managed to get out of a very curious group to make it to the final stages, but the quality of players Akira Nishino has cannot even hold a candle to the Belgians.
It will be interesting to see how things will pan out, but I have no doubt that this will end with the Belgians smiling on to the next stage and the Japanese packing their bags on the way back home.
The first two games of the knockout stages have opened the floodgates for the rest of the countries still in the competition. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, two of the best players to ever pick up the sport, were sent packing in rapid succession by France and Uruguay, respectively.
With the two supposed giants now out of the competition, the gates are more than open for Belgium to punch through and gun for the World Cup title.
Their big win against England — despite rumours of England supposedly forfeiting the game on purpose — is a huge confidence booster for the Red Devils. The mere fact that Manchester United reject Adnan Januzaj was the one who scored the goal just validates the amount of talent this team has.
Moreover, Kevin De Bruyne has been nothing short of brilliant for Belgium. According to Roberto Martinez, the Manchester City man is highly underrated and isn’t given enough attention by the media. While it is understandable that Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard are the biggest stars in the team, he believes that he will make a huge impact in the upcoming match.
This game will be a tough nut to crack for Japan because they certainly don’t have the same quality of players moving forward. While Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa have found success in Europe, I don’t believe that they can simply overcome a defensive line that could feature Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen.
Moreover, their failure to keep surprise bottom feeders Poland from scoring a goal is a testament to how leaky of a defence they’ve got. The mere fact that their disciplinary record was the only thing that got them over a much more impressive Senegal team is something that not a lot of Japanese should be proud of.
Eiji Kawashima should coordinate a solid defence with Yuto Nagatomo, Hiroki Sakai and Maya Yoshida if they hope of even making it to extra time.
The current trends do point to Belgium easily taking the cake against the Japanese, but previous Belgium vs Japan results tell a very different story.
The two sides first met at the 1999 Kirin Cup, where the two countries played out a scoreless draw. The next four matches these two played panned out in an interesting way: the Samurai Blue won two games, drew one and lost the latest one.
They played each other during the group stage of the 2002 World Cup, and the Saitama Stadium 2002 willed the Japanese to a superb 2-2 draw against the Red Devils. They did this to a Belgian team that had former Ivory Coast boss Marc Wilmots at the helm.
However, the most shocking result would be the 4-0 victory Japan handed Belgium at the Kokuritsu Stadium in Tokyo. Nagatomo and Okazaki scored during that game, while Vermaelen and Alderweireld were just kicking off their international careers.
Belgium have taken back a game after playing the Samurai Blue in Bruges. Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal late in the game against a Japanese side that was then still managed by Vahid Halilhodzic.
Nishino should definitely point to their prior engagements with Belgium if they want to pull off the greatest gian- killing of the tournament.
What are the odds?
There are very intriguing Belgium vs Japan odds in store for the discerning punter. As expected, almost every single market is banking on the Belgians to take the W and move on to the quarter-finals.
The Red Devils’ 1X2 odds are pretty terrible, so there’s no way to go but the Asian Handicap market. Belgium’s -1.50 handicap will reward punters with 2.29. The First Half Asian Handicap offers a much bigger 2.42 reward for a -0.75 risk.
However, there is a huge bounty in store for the brave few who believe in the indomitable will of the Japanese. If you want to go big, go straight for Japan’s 1X2 odds of 8.00. If Honda somehow repeats his heroics against Senegal and pull off a fantastic upset, you will be swimming in a good deal of winnings.
Given Belgium’s tendencies to dish out high-scoring games, it would be foolish not to check Over 2.75 goals for 2.26. However, should the Japanese turtle it out and risk a penalty shootout, Under 2.25 goals is available for 2.19.
Keep your eyes peeled on us for more news and updates regarding this match. While this seems like an easy win for Belgium, you’ll never what will happen until that final whistle is blown.
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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