Belgium’s golden generation of players will face their first challenge in a World Cup Round of 16 match against Japan.
The Red Devils’ path to the knockout stage was one of offensive destruction that included a 3-0 win over Panama, a 5-2 win over Tunisia, and a 1-0 win over England, in which Romelu Lukaku didn’t even play.
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Japan didn’t exactly play through the end of the group stage. After upsetting Colombia 2-0, and playing an exciting 2-2 draw against Senegal, the Japanese played one of the least entertaining games of the World Cup. Because of FIFA’s fair play tiebreaker, Japan knew if Colombia beat Senegal on the final matchday, then they would be in the Round of 16. Once news spread of Colombia’s 1-0 lead, they played a game of boring back passes in an attempt to avoid injuries, yellow cards and giving up any more goals to already-eliminated Poland.
Needless to say, it would appear that Belgium has the goodwill heading into the match, and the talent to win with ease. But Japan can’t be counted out just yet. The Red Devils aren’t known for their tournament success, so one misstep might be all that Japan needs to steal a win.
Sporting News will keep you updated with scores and highlights from Belgium vs. Japan.
Belgium vs. Japan live: Scores and highlights
48′ — GOAL JAPAN! Haraguchi gets the beautiful ball from his teammate and speeds right past Vertonghento slot in the opening goal of the game!
46′ — Second half begins.
HALFTIME: Belgium 0, Japan 0
45’+1′ — Mertens fires from outside of the box and it gets collected nicely by Kawashima.
45′ — Belgium will need to adjust and defend the right side of the field better. Japan has had plenty of opportunites from that side and has almost scored on a few occasions. One minute of injury time
44′ — Otako had a chance to tip in the ball and score but it was too soft and Courtouis picked it up….after fumbling it and almost allowing a goal.
Oh boy, Courtois, that was close 😳 pic.twitter.com/UhEL5MCB1V
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 2, 2018
40′ — Yellow Card: Shibasaki for a foul on Eden Hazard, who was on the break. Hazard is still down.
38′ — Lukaku continues to be a pest for Japan’s defense, forcing another corner for the Red Devils.
37′ — Hazard on the counter had a great opportunity but the shot was blocked by Japanese defenders. The ball came back to Kevin de Bruyne, who passed it to Witsel. The ball sailed over the bar from his shot.
35′ — Innui had a great opportunity for Japan thanks to a great feed. He passed it to Kagawa, who couldn’t get his shot off either.
34′ — Mertens gets the chance at the edge of the box, but couldn’t get the shot off.
31′ — Opportunity for Japan! The team drives into Belgium’s box and Osako got an opportunity to head it in goal, but it was saved by Courtois.
27′ — Another chance for Lukaku following a shot attempt by Hazard. Japan’s defense holding firm with deflections on both attempts!
25′ — OH SO CLOSE FOR BELGIUM. Lukaku gets the chance in front of goal but he can’t turn in time to get on the scoreboard and the ball gets sent to the keeper.
The first big chance for Belgium falls to Lukaku but the striker can’t put it away! pic.twitter.com/oQBj3lWYR8
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 2, 2018
23′ — The possession game has been flipped on its head and it’s now Belgium in total control. A goal just feels close.
21′ — Lukaku fires from outside of the box only to get his shot deflected behind goal for another corner. Belgium tried to go short with the corner and could not convert.
17′ — Lukaku gets the ball in the box and attempts to turn and shoot, but is stopped by Japan’s defense. Ball is deflected out of bounds for another corner. Kompany’s shot from the ensuing corner goes wide. Goal kick, Japan.
16′ — Hazard received a great feed in the box and brought down the pass with ease. A few passes later and it lands at the feed of Witsel, whose shot gets deflected behind goal for a corner.
10′ — BIG chance for Japan! A cross freezes Belgian defenders and the keeper but the intended target wasn’t able to get a head on it. Score remains 0-0.
4′ — Hazard fouled on the break and gets a free kick on Belgium’s third of the pitch.
1′ — Japan getting the chances off early with a shot just wide of the net by Kagawa!
Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen, Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco, Mertens, Lukaku, Eden Hazard.
Subs: Mignolet, Vermaelen, Fellaini, Thorgan Hazard, Tielemans, Januzaj, Dembele, Boyata, Batshuayi, Chadli, Dendoncker, Casteels.
Japan: Kawashima, Hiroki Sakai, Yoshida, Shoji, Nagatomo, Hasebe, Shibasaki, Haraguchi, Kagawa, Inui, Osako.
Subs: Higashiguchi, Ueda, Honda, Endo, Okazaki, Usami, Muto, Yamaguchi, Oshima, Makino, Gotoku Sakai, Nakamura.
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