Belgium wins 23rd straight match to secure World Cup quarter-final berth

Dean Simpson
July 3, 2018

"The players are ready to get the rhythm as fast as they can".

The mere mention of it invokes a shudder in England and in Portugal, where the loaded term came to prominence in describing the teams that won the FIFA Youth Championships in 1989 and 1991.

"They know what it takes to win".

At this stage in the last World Cup, Belgium laboured to a dramatic extra-time win over the United States. Belgium v/s Japan Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Bengali commentary will be on Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD.

Lukaku will look to add to his group-stage tally of four goals against a Japan defense conceding more than a goal per game.

The Japanese have endured stinging criticism in the aftermath of their final group game, when they ran the clock down in a 1-0 defeat to Poland, squeezing into the knockout rounds to advance at Senegal's expense by virtue of having picked up fewer yellow cards. They may very well get that chance here in Russian Federation. Given that no African team qualified either, it means they are still in position to reclaim their status as lovable underdogs.

The game ebbed and flowed in the second half, with Belgium looking the likelier to score a third.

Takashi Inui calmly collected Shiji Kagawa's layoff near the box and curled one past Courtois to leave the Belgian Red Devils shellshocked. Conversely, Japan is a favorite at -130 getting 1.5 goals.

Despite being only 25 years old, the powerfully-built Lukaku already has 40 global goals - including four so far in Russian Federation. The strength, pace and clinical finishing of Lukaku could terrorise Japan's suspect defence. The competition with Kane is set to push the Golden Boot goal-marker higher than previous years.

Belgium's "golden generation" have now scored 12 goals in four games in Russian Federation ahead of a last eight clash on Friday with Brazil, who beat Mexico 2-0 earlier on Monday.

After reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1990 and the last four of the European Championship on home soil six years later, a glowing clutch of blooming brilliance was expected to swiftly surpass those near misses and end the mounting years of hurt.

Muller's 10 or Just Fontaine's single-tournament record of 13 in 1982 may be unattainable, but Ronaldo's mark from 2002 is a realistic target.

"Japan had fantastic performances in the group stage and progressed to the round of 16 in both cases, but.the team members were all exhausted, there wasn't anything left", said Nishino, who was previously the Japan Football Association's technical director.

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