The third day of the last 16 stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks off with Brazil in action against a Mexico side that played a massive part in eliminating Germany, who won the 2014 competition. The day is concluded with the meeting of Belgium and surprise qualifiers Japan, who progressed thanks to the fair play rule, in what promises to be another thrilling match.
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Brazil arrive at this match at the Samara Arena having kept three clean sheets in a row against Mexico as they won 2-0 in the 2013 Confederations Cup and a 2015 friendly match with a 0-0 draw in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup on home soil in between. Mexico last defeated the side who topped the South American qualifying group and Group E in Russia in a 2012 friendly and have not defeated them in a competitive match since the 2007 Copa America. They are the outsiders to win this match, but having impressed against Germany in the group stages – who defeated Brazil 7-1 four years ago at the Semi Final stage – but will they be able to upset the odds once again?
Brazil have not exactly lived up to their potential at the World Cup so far with some poor performances and uninspiring football. This began with a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in their opening match following a stunning opening goal from Philippe Coutinho before needing goals in injury time to defeat Costa Rica in their second game of the tournament. They did improve with another 2-0 victory in their final game of the group to see off Serbia in a must win match that would have seen them eliminated had they lost, but with just a single goal from Neymar in the competition so far do Brazil have the killer instinct of old to see off the Central American side?
Mexico would have been much closer to Brazil in the betting market for this match had they not suffering a heavy and humiliating defeat in their final match of the group stage as they were beaten 3-0 by Sweden. This victory saw the Scandinavian side top the group and leapfrog Mexico to top Group F and avoid having to face Brazil in this knockout stage clash, but with El Tri having kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Germany before easing past South Korea 2-1, only conceding in injury time, they will be confident of upsetting the odds again.
We feel that with their pace and attacking style of play Mexico will cause Brazil problems in this match, especially as the favourites have doubts over Marcelo and Danilo in defence, but we do feel that the goal threat that Brazil carries is much higher. With this in mind, we feel that Brazil are the deserved favourites to win this match but they do not offer value at such a short price and we are backing goals from these sides as our pick of the match instead.
These two teams have clashed on three occasions over the last decade and, surprisingly, it is the Japanese side that have the better record in this trio of matches. They thumped Belgium 4-0 in the 2009 Kirin Cup tournament and then triumphed 3-2 in a five goal friendly four years later, but the European side did win the last meeting of these sides last November as Romelu Lukaku netted the only goal in a 1-0 victory. The Manchester United has netted four times in Russia this summer already, now can he bag more goals to see Belgium progress to the last eight stage?
Belgium are one of just three sides to secure nine points in the group stage from winning all three games as they saw off Panama 3-0, Tunisia 5-2 and England 1-0 in match that saw both teams rest players. There are certainly some questions over their defensive abilities as the concession of two goals to Tunisia showed, but they will feel that their attacking threat gives them a deserved billing as favourites for this match.
Japan arrive at this match in Rostov having won one, drawn one and lost one of their three matches as they finished second in Group H. They started the final group match top of the group after they were helped to all three points by a third minute red card for Colombia in their 2-1 win over the South Americans before playing out a thrilling 2-2 draw with Senegal. They were defeated by an already eliminated Poland who were playing for pride in the final group game, but with their better disciplinary record they moved into the last 16 stage and Senegal went home early, but have they shown anything to show that they can defeat an impressive Belgian side?
Both sides rested players in their final group game, but Belgium have shown more attacking intent in the tournament so far and are certain to score in this match. Japan have plenty of determination and a good team spirit, but with four goals conceded in three matches we can see them being outscored by the Europeans in this one.