Kagawa to return in 4-2-3-1

Jo Caldwell
July 3, 2018

Having played a bit-part role in this World Cup so far, it is unclear how much he will feature against Belgium, but his experience might prove vital in this crunch encounter.

Akira Nishino's side could have settled for taking the tie into extra time but instead they were punished for taking a chance on a last corner kick, and Chadli, another substitute, finished off the move.

But what is not in doubt is the extraordinary weight of expectation that will rest on the shoulders of the 11 players picked from kick-off at Rostov Area on Monday.

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez said on Sunday that his team expected to have a "tough" match against Japan in the World Cup round of 16 as their opponents have "incredible" energy and could create problems for Belgium. "We have top players and we play as a group, especially after the win over England", said the Chelsea star.

With four goals in the tournament, Romelu Lukaku wasn't able to add to his tally after failing to steer home a sitter as the ball became tangled under his feet just yards out from goal.

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Falling behind rattled the Belgians as Hazard clattered the post moments later.

- Belgium scored more goals than any other team in this year's World Cup group stages (9). Japan has never made it into the quarterfinals, and we are given the opportunity to challenge such feat in great condition.

Japan failed to impress in their qualifying campaign, winning a weak group but dropping ten points in the process.

They will feel they deserved better than this after a superbly disciplined performance, with Maya Yoshida marshalling their back line and Eiji Kawashima - a goalkeeper who has been relegated in both Scotland and France in the past three seasons - making several vital interceptions. Should they defeat Japan, their opponents would get considerably more hard on the road to the July 15 final.

As his defence started to tire, goalkeeper Kawashima kept Japan in the game his side with two saves in quick succession to deny Chadli and Lukaku. Late in the game, Japan were trailing 1-0 against the Poles - who were already out - when news filtered through that Colombia had taken the lead against Senegal. That meant South Americans were going top and Japan and Senegal were tied in nearly everything - they both had four points and a goal difference of 4-4.

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Shinji Kagawa is another impact player for Japan but it is unclear about the time he will get on the pitch for Japan.

Now Japan stand in the path of another appearance in the quarter-finals, where Brazil or Mexico will lie in wait.

Where is the FIFA World Cup 2018 Belgium v/s Japan match?

Belgium are clear favourites in this match.

Dries Mertens, who is likely to be back alongside Eden Hazard in support of Lukaku after Martinez fielded a virtual reserve team against England, said the players were well aware that they had come up short in the past four years.

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Martinez has inherited a Belgium side that are hitting their peak; the "golden generation". I expect a nice and big win for the Devils.

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