Saudi Arabia aside, AFC confederation teams have a good record of keeping things tight against their UEFA counterparts with 68% of such games at the World Cup seeing fewer than three goals since 1998. While many would expect that the weaker sides of Europe would contribute heavily to this, as the better sides record more resounding victories, when looking at games where the European side was ranked in our top 10, it’s a marginally more impressive 69% that have gone under that mark.
A Belgium clean sheet will undoubtedly help keep the scoring down, and indeed Japan haven’t shown enough going forwards to suggest they can break down their opponents. The Blue Samurai have lost each of their last five against European teams in any game, with three losses without finding the net including one with Belgium themselves, while the other two were 2-1 defeats against Ukraine and Bosnia. If not for their strikes against those two weaker sides, each of these games would have seen fewer than three goals.
While Lukaku should return to the starting line-up after missing out against England through injury, he’s by no means the only threat for Belgium and we prefer his teammate Hazard in the goalscorers market. The Chelsea man has six goals in his last eight appearances, while he bagged the opener in three of the four in which he scored as was only 11 minutes too late against Egypt to make that four from four.