Asia's hopes pinned on Japan

Published on: 30 June 2018

The Samurai Blue advanced to the Knockout Stage on Thursday by the finest of margins, qualifying for the Round of 16 on the fair play criteria ahead of Senegal.

The reward for the four-time AFC Asian Cup winners, who lost 1-0 to Poland in their final Group H match, is a clash with Group G winners Belgium.

Opting to start with a largely changed lineup, Belgium defeated England - who also opted to give their fringe players a run out - 1-0 to take top spot in the group.



Japan, whose last appearance in the Knockout Stage was in South Africa 2010, play Belgium on Monday.

The two last met in a friendly match in November 2017 with Belgium edging the tie 1-0.

The head-to-head, however, is equal with both having won twice each and drawing once - in the 2002 World Cup which Japan co-hosted with Korea Republic. That match ended 2-2.

A standout Round of 16 tie has to be 1998 champions France taking on Argentina, winners in 1978 and 1986.

Round of 16 Match-ups

June 30

France v Argentina

Uruguay v Portugal

July 1

Spain v Russia

Croatia v Denmark

July 2

Brazil v Mexico

Belgium v Japan

July 3

Sweden v Switzerland

Colombia v England