The round of 16 continues on Monday, with the five-time champions Brazil in action against a Mexico heavily involved in the elimination of defending champions Germany. The second match of the day sees Belgium take on Japan.
The winners of these games will face each other in the quarter-final. With the incredible amount of the attacking talent between Brazil and Belgium, all eyes will be on this showdown if it indeed does happen. Coming into this World Cup, the South Americans were one of the favourites. It is, however, the Red Devils from Brussels who have arguably been more impressive thus far.
Brazil vs Mexico
Brazil had a relatively comfortable ride in the group stages, despite starting with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland. In their next match, they were made to work incredibly hard by Costa Rica, before scoring twice in second half stoppage time to win 2-0. They won their final group game by the same scoreline against Serbia to finish top of Group E. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Tite’s men, with main man Neymar failing to find his best form thus far. Gabriel Jesus and Willian have also misfired and their talisman has been Philippe Coutinho.
Mexico, on the other hand, shocked the world by beating Germany in their first match in Group F. The North Americans were very impressive both defensively and going forward, and continued this form into their second game against South Korea. They won 2-1 to all but guarantee qualification, before almost messing it up against Sweden. Mexico were the choreographers of their own downfall, as silly defensive lapses saw them on the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline. Had Germany scored in their match against South Korea, we would have been talking about a Brazil-Germany blockbuster here. Mexico need to gain their mojo from the first two games back to have any chance of overcoming Brazil.
Brazil 3-1 Mexico
Belgium vs Japan
Belgium were one of only three teams to have a perfect record in the group stages, as they qualified as group winners in Group G ahead of England. They completely swept aside Panama and Tunisia, by 3-0 and 5-2 scorelines, respectively. Romelu Lukaku scored 4 goals in those games, while captain Eden Hazard got a couple. In their third match over England, Roberto Martinez played a weakened side that was still able to come away with a 1-0 win, thanks to an absolute beauty by Adnan Januzaj. The strength in depth that Belgium have is incredible, and thus far, the “Golden Generation” has very much lived upto its potential.
Japan became the first team in the history of the World Cup to qualify for the knockout rounds due to a better Fair Play record. The Asians were tied with Senegal in Group H, with exactly similar records in terms of points, goal difference and goals scored. The game between the two teams ended 2-2 as well, thereby ruling out the head-to-head criteria too. Japan thereby qualified because they had two fewer yellow cards. They had beaten Colombia 2-1 in their opening fixtures, before earning a point against Senegal. In the final game, they flirted with elimination as Poland beat them 1-0.
There looks like only one winner here on paper and barring a debacle, Belgium should continue their impressive tournament and march on.
Belgium 3-0 Japan