World Cup 2018: Belgium Team, Predicted Playing XI & Starting Lineup vs Japan
UPDATE: Belgium have confirmed their lineup - Courtois; Vermaelen, Kompany, Alderweireld; Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco; Mertens, E. Hazard; Lukaku.
Could things get any more exciting and easier for the rest of the top teams at the World Cup? Four heavyweights (Germany, Argentina, Portugal, and Spain) have already been eliminated and we could see more upsets in the Round of 16.
Belgium take on Japan today at the Rostov Arena and it promises to be an exciting encounter. Belgium were one of three teams to win all their group stage fixtures while Japan qualified by the skin of their teeth with the Fair Play table allowing them to qualify ahead of Senegal who had identical numbers everywhere else.
Before the World Cup, Belgium were one of the 'dark horses' but with so many top teams out of the fray, they are now one of the favourites. with a galaxy of stars in the squad - the majority of who play in the Premier League - the Red Devils are clear favourites to beat the Blue Samurai.
Belgium vs Japan: Pre-match quotes
"This is our time to shine, definitely. We have top players and we play as a group, especially after the win over England," said Eden Hazard. "It's in our hands, we need to give everything and see what happens.
If Belgium coach Roberto Martinez's comments in the pre-match press conference are anything to go by, the European side cannot wait to get back on the pitch and get resume their campaign.
"The group is in a very good moment mentally and physically, the players are desperate to be on the pitch. The ones who played against England had a really good experience. And the ones who were rested are waiting to get back on the pitch." - Roberto Martinez
Wary of weaker teams sitting back and defending at this World Cup, Martinez also said that the team was practising penalties. However, Japan have been quite adventurous compared to other teams.
"The players have been practising but nothing will prepare you for taking the penalty that will get you through to the next phase in the knockout stages of the World Cup," Martinez explained.
Belgium Team News
Romelu Lukaku was unavailable for the third group stage fixture against England but Martinez's second-string team got the job done with Adnan Januzaj scoring the winner. However, Lukaku will return to the lineup today - as will Hazard and Dries Mertens who were also rested.
The only problems the Belgians have right now are the yellow cards to their names. Kevin De Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Meunier, Leander Dendoncker, and Youri Tielemans are all one booking away from being suspended for the quarter-final if they qualify.
How will Belgium line up against Japan?
Thibaut Courtois will continue in goal for Belgium with Martinez opting for their traditional 3-4-2-1 formation. Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany will return to the bench with Jan Vertonghen and Dedryck Boyata returning in central defence to partner Toby Alderweireld.
The midfield duo will see the return of Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bruyne with Tielemans and Mousa Dembele returning to the bench. The wing-back positions will see Yannick Carrasco on the left and Thomas Meunier on the right.
Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens will start in their attacking midfield positions with both players playing in free roles behind Romelu Lukaku who is competing for the Golden Boot with 4 goals to his name.
Belgium XI and Formation
Note: This article was updated after the starting lineups were announced.
Who do you think will win this game? Let us know in the comments below.