With the elimination of Germany at the group stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and Spain crashing out in a stunning penalty kick upset to host Russia, as the New York Times reported, Belgium now become one of the solid favorites to take home the cup. But first, they must avoid what may be an even more stunning upset at the hands of a resourceful and disciplined Japan team that survived the group stage thanks to FIFA's obscure "fair play" tiebreaker rule. The Belgium vs. Japan Round of 16 match will live stream on Monday from Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
Belgium also advanced in unusual fashion, as the BBC noted, fielding what was essentially a second-string side against England in what was mostly a meaningless group stage finale. But England also played its "B" team, and lost the match. But as Deadspin reported, England may have come out with the better deal.
While Japan appears to be a beatable Round of 16 foe, Belgium will likely face Brazil in the quarterfinals, according to the ESPN bracket, meaning that their tournament could end right there. But by losing, England also get a beatable Round of 16 opponent, Colombia, but also a less-than-elite quarterfinal opponent, if they get there, either Sweden or Switzerland, most likely.
To find out how to watch a live stream of the Belgium vs. Japan 2018 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 knockout match, see the streaming instructions at the bottom of this article. Kickoff for the big match between the European and Asian sides is scheduled for 9 p.m. Moscow Standard Time at Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday, July 2.
In the United Kingdom, that start time will be 7 p.m. British Summer Time, while fans in the United States can log in to the Belgium vs. Japan live stream at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, or 11 a.m. Pacific. Fans in India can watch the game live stream at 11:30 p.m. India Standard Time on Monday.
Japan also won by losing in its final group stage match, albeit in a very different way. Falling behind 1-0 to Poland, Manager Akira Nishino knew that a loss by that score would see his side through — assuming that the Blue Samurai picked up no additional yellow or red cards. So he instructed his team to play as cautiously as possible, accepting the loss, but also avoiding any loss of fair play points. The strategy worked, and Japan became the first team in World Cup history to utilize the fair play tiebreaker system for advancement.
"In that moment, I had to make a decision on our tactical direction," Nishino explained later, promising a more entertaining performance against Belgium. "[Fans] were short-changed 10 minutes, and they probably got a little less mileage than usual out of the first 80 minutes. So I want to pay people back."
Watch a preview of the Belgium vs. Japan Round of 16 showdown in the video below, courtesy of Japanese public broadcaster NHK.