World Cup History: Belgium vs Japan
As Belgium take on Japan on the third day of the round of 16 fixtures in Rostov Arena, looking for a spot in the Quarterfinals of the World Cup, let's take a look at the only previous meeting between these two nations in the World Cup.
2002 World Cup: Belgium 2-2 Japan
The 2002 World Cup saw Belgium drawn into the same group as 2002 World Cup co-hosts Japan, in group H. On 4th June 2002, Japan faced off against Belgium for the very first and only previous time in a World Cup, at the Saitama stadium in Japan.
Belgium came into that tournament on the back of being eliminated in the first round of 1998 World Cup as well as the 2000 Euro Cup (which they co-hosted), while Japan entered this tournament as the co-hosts of 2002 World Cup along with South Korea.
The Belgium squad consisted of ageing superstar and future Belgium manager Marc Wilmots, and future Bayern Munich star Daniel Van Buyten, while the Japanese squad consisted of Feyenoord star Shinji Ono, and legendary Asian player and the only player in Japan to be named in the FIFA 100 list, Hidetoshi Nakata.
It was the Europeans who started off the match brightly as the Japanese found it hard to break the physically strong Belgium defence in a first half that ended 0-0. In a much better second half display by both teams, Belgium scored the first goal of the match as Marc Wilmots broke the deadlock with a superb overhead kick.
With Japanese facing a fourth straight loss in a World Cup, Takayuki Suzuki latched on to Shinji Ono's pass to slot home the equaliser for the Japanese. With almost 33 minutes remaining in the match, Junichi Inamoto ran through the Belgian defence to score the second goal of the match to send the crowd into raptures.
But the lead did not last long as Peter Van der Heyden scored in the 75th-minute to deny Japan their first World Cup win.
Japan went on to top group H, followed by Belgium in the second place, but both teams failed to progress beyond the round of 16.
Can Eden Hazard and co-deliver the first victory for Belgium in this fixture or will the Japanese spring an upset?