STAR PREVIEW: Monday’s World Cup games

Brazil v Mexico
FIFA World Cup 2018 Round of 16
15:00 ITV

World Cup favourites Brazil had an all but smooth Group Stage here in Russia, but nevertheless still managed to top the group. And they arrive here in Samara slightly fearful of the surprise package from Group F in Mexico, who took the scalps of the current holders Germany in their first game at this years tournament.

But “El Tri’s” record against Brazil at World Cups is woeful, conceding 11 times in 4 games and never finding the net themselves against the “Selecao”. This could be a nervy affair unless Brazil stamp their authority from the outset, and they’ll look to further their impressive record against the Mexicans here. A Brazil Clean Sheet at Evens looks hard to oppose under boss Tite.

The Last 16 has been Mexico’s elimination stage for the last 6 World Cups, and they’ll need a special game against the very best to buck the trend here in Russia. Without defender Hector Moreno, that job looks even harder and with the likes of Neymar and Coutinho firing on all cylinders, it looks written in the stars for a Mexico exit. Coutinho at 17/4 to score first looks attractive, with the Barcelona playmaker on of the most dangerous in and around the area at all times.

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Belgium v Japan
FIFA World Cup 2018 Round of 16
19:00 BBC One

After the group stages of this World Cup few will count Belgium out as potential winners and they ought to be too good for Japan in their last 16 tie.

The Belgians won what was being called the ‘must lose game’ on Thursday but the irony is that following on from many permutations and predictions for the draw, they now have what is the easier assignment on paper coming up, with a best price of just 2/5 available with that they will win in 90 minutes.

Of course, they are in the ‘harder’ part of the draw, although they ought to have no fear about facing any of the sides given how impressive their two performances have been and there’s less to fear from any team than at the beginning of the tournament. Roberto Martinez will be hearted that the much-changed side he played got the better of England and looked useful enough whilst doing so thanks to a fine Adnan Januzaj strike. Vincent Kompany’s 15-minute cameo off the bench was also positive ahead of a potential quarter-final although Derdick Boyata looked more than good enough to handle himself too which eases some of the fears regarding defence.

It is in midfield and going forward where Belgium excel however, and their quintet of Kevin de Bruyne, Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku can match any in the competition. They’re also in form too, with Lukaku having scored four goals so far whilst Hazard was at his dominating best with two goals and a hatful of chances created. De Bryune too, has found his range and is working well with a confident Lukaku.

Japan’s qualification from the group – which to be fair, is more than was expected of them pre-tournament – was unsatisfactory for many as they reached the last 16 of the World Cup by having a better disciplinary record than Senegal after losing to Poland in their final Group H game.

However, in previous matches they did show enough to think they can be reasonably competitive, taking advantage of Colombia’s early red card to cause an upset and going toe to toe with Senegal in an entertaining game that ended 2-2. Shinji Kagawa is the star name and has had a good tournament, but Takashi Inui shone with a goal and assist against Senegal and Gaku Shibasaki was one of many who have confused expectations.

However, this is likely to be a substantially tougher test for them against a Belgian side with all the weapons to go very far. Over 2.5 goals (10/11 with looks a runner given that both sides are attack minded with one having the advantage.

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