Belgium vs. Japan

In Monday’s second match, Group G winner Belgium will take on Group H runner-up Japan.

Having won all three of its matches, Belgium arrives at its round of 16-match with the most goals scored in the group stage. Simply put, the Belgian attack is one to be reckoned with. Yannick Carrasco, Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens may constitute the best set of five attackers in the tournament.

Oh, and Belgium also has Thibaut Courtois in goal … no pressure @Japan.

Lukaku is another Golden Boot candidate with four goals in the group stage. Additionally, Belgium had assists on seven of its nine goals. With ALL that said, we’ve never really seen Belgium live up to its potential. Will this be the year it finally makes a run? It starts with this match against Japan, which looks pretty favorable on paper. Expect the Belgians to throw a lot of shots at the target and overwhelm this Japanese side.

As for Japan, it’s looking pretty bleak. The Japanese advanced to the round of 16 on fair play over Senegal. This side is led by Keisuke Honda (yes, he’s still playing), and have just been so-so all around thus far. Like Sweden, Japan doesn’t do anything extremely well, but they also don’t do anything poorly. Japan had the third-worst goal differential among the teams to make the knockout round and now faces a Belgium side with the best goal differential. Short of a complete meltdown by Belgium, it’s hard to see a formula for the Japanese to win.

Matchup to Watch – Jan Vertonghen/Vincent Kompany vs. Shinji Kagawa

For Japan to win, Kagawa has to shine. Kagawa will likely play in a no. 10 role against the Belgium back three. Kagawa, who has one goal for Japan so far, will most likely face off against one of Belgium’s stronger defenders in Vertonghen or Kompany. If Kagawa can produce a heroic performance, he can give Japan a chance to win.

Prediction – Belgium 4, Japan 1

As stated earlier, it’s hard to see the Japanese coming out on top here. Belgium is too good and brings a lot of confidence into this matchup, and Japan doesn’t have enough firepower to match up with Lukaku and co. Lukaku grabs another goal in pursuit of the Golden Boot, and Belgium sets up a quarterfinal matchup with Brazil.