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International Friendly Preview: Belgium v Japan

Japan will be out to inflict further misery on Belgium when the sides meet in Brussels on Tuesday.

Marc Wilmots’ side were defeated for the first time in 2013 on Thursday, slipping to a 2-0 loss to Colombia courtesy of Radamel Falcao and Victor Ibarbo goals.

A stunning turnaround for the Belgians in recent years has seen them romp to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, leaping from 40th to fifth in the world rankings in the process.

But they will meet a Japan side in confident mood, having come from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands in Genk on Friday.

Goals from Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben looked to have condemned the Asian nation to a third consecutive defeat, but an experimental Japan side pulled level through Yuya Osako and Keisuke Honda.

Hotaru Yamaguchi, Shusaku Nishikawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake were handed starting berths in place of more experienced campaigners Yasuhito Endo, Eiji Kawashima and Shinji Kagawa.

Coach Alberto Zaccheroni was pleased with the number of chances his side created as well as the performances of his less experienced players.

“I wanted to play new players and wanted to see how much we could do as a team,” he told the Japan Football Association’s official website.

“The new players did well, and we played well both in defence and offence

“I put more focus on how we would play them rather than the result, and our players played to my satisfaction.

“Our play on the sides functioned well and we had good counter-attacks. We created many chances on counters.”

Belgium have never beaten Japan, with their three previous meetings yielding two draws and a 4-0 Japan win – the latter coming in 2009’s Kirin Cup, courtesy of goals from Yuto Nagatomo, Kengo Nakamura, Shinji Okazaki and Kisho Yano.

Wilmots’ major selection concern is likely to be whether to stick with Simon Mignolet in goal or revert to Thibaut Courtois, who was first choice for much of their World Cup qualification campaign.

Sun 17 November, 2013
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