World Cup 2018: Day 19 at a glance
Mexico have impressed but now they face the mighty Brazil; Belgium take on fair play stars
Brazil’s forward Neymar takes part to a training session at the Samara Arena stadium on the eve of the World Cup round of 16 match against Mexico. Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
Brazil v Mexico (Samara, 3.0, RTÉ2/ITV).
Betting: Brazil 1-2, Mexico 7-1, Draw 16-5.
Belgium v Japan (Rostov-on-Don,7.0, RTÉ2/BBC1).
Betting: Belgium 2-5, Japan 9-1, Draw 15-4
ONE TO WATCH
Feared, revered - sometimes ridiculed, Romelu Lukaku has just turned 25 and he is slowly transforming into the centre forward he always promised to be. His first season at Manchester United was a mixed one, but that was largely down to stylistic reasons.
Lukaku works earnestly but he is a far better player running onto the ball rather than holding it up – hence why he often thrives for the Red Devils of Belgium more than the Red Devils of Manchester. Lukaku and Eden Hazard – with the assistance of Kevin De Bruyne – is a match made in heaven. Hazard schemes and scampers between the lines, with Lukaku making the match-winning runs down the channels.
It is a partnership which has led to the striker scoring a staggering 17 goals in his last 10 international fixtures – a figure he can add to against an able but physically inferior Japan side on Monday. Lukaku has scored more goals in major tournaments than any other Belgium player.
He was rested for the 1-0 win over England - a highly anticipated fixture which became a non-event – but prior to that he has made hay in Russia. He became the first player to score two or more in successive World Cup games since Diego Maradona in 1986 with his brace against Tunisia.
“I’m going to remember to have fun this time,” Lukaku said on the eve of the tournament. It’s safe to say he’s remembered.
At just 21, Gabriel Jesus has a lot of football in his legs already, having made his senior debut for Palmeiras as a 17-year-old back in 2015.
After scoring 16 goals in 47 games for the São Paulo club , the striker was snapped up by Manchester City during the January 2017 transfer window for a fee reported to be €33 million. He made an immediate impact with Pep Guardiola’s side, scoring on his full debut, but suffered a broken metatarsal in his fourth game. He made a quick recovery and went on to finish with seven goals in 10 Premier League games.
Jesus went on to play a key role in City’s Premier League win last season, scoring 13 goals in 29 league appearances and has scored 10 goals in his 20 international appearances for Brazil. His versatility and work rate helps open up space up front for Brazil’s bigger stars like Neymar and Philippe Coutinho and while he is yet to get off the mark in the World Cup he may fancy his chances against Mexico in Samara this afternoon.
DID YOU KNOW?
As those who have been listening in to Brian Kerr’s informative World Cup commentaries will already know, Japan full back Yuto Nagatomo is the author of a book on yoga. With 108 caps, the 31-year-old has certainly enjoyed longevity in his international career, while also keeping up a very busy media profile in Japan. He even proposed to his wife, actress Airi Taira, on the pitch at the San Siro during his time at Inter Milan.