Belgium’s reward for winning a game they didn’t want to win is a game against a Japan side that squeezed through on the fair play rule in Group H.
Akira Nishino’s side defied the odds to qualify for the Second Round, and they will have a huge task ahead of them if they want to make it any further. Not only are Belgium overwhelming favourites, but they also have a fresh first-choice eleven after resting nine players in their victory over England on Thursday.
One of those returning will be Romelu Lukaku, who will be continuing his quest for the Golden Boot in a match against one of the smallest sides in the World Cup. The Manchester United man should have plenty of joy against a lightweight defence that has given away a plethora of chances in their games so far, and looks like good value at 4/1 (William Hill) to score twice for the third straight World Cup game.
One weakness in the Belgian ranks is out wide, where Yannick Carrasco operates as a left-wing back despite being more of a natural winger. That could open up gaps for Takashi Inui to exploit, and the Eibar wideman looked dangerous during the group stages. Inui is as high as 6/1 to score anytime.
In addition to that, Belgium haven’t been wholly convincing at the back generally. They conceded two in their win over Tunisia, whilst being fortunate to keep clean sheets against England and lowly Panama in their other group games. Japan have found the net against decent Colombian and Senegal defences in their group, so 5/4 for both teams to score has a great chance of coming in.
Ultimately the Belgians won’t be denied their date with destiny against Brazil in the quarters. Their big-game players are returning to the side after a rest in their last game, and the freshness of Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard will be huge against a Japan side that have had to battle hard for 270 minutes to get to this stage. The Belgium win with both teams scoring will be the way to go here, and at 27/10 with Coral, it looks like a bet that offers plenty of value.