Japan to take on Belgium in November


Japan will play World Cup seed Belgium in a friendly in Brussels next month, the Japan Football Association announced on Monday.

The Asian champions will face world No. 5 Belgium on Nov. 19, three days after playing the Netherlands in Genk. The Belgians qualified for Brazil next year as Group A winners in Europe.

“In terms of their style of play and physicality, they are right up there at the top of the world,” Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni said in a statement.

“They have a lot of young talent, and I personally think they are the best Belgium team of all time. They made it through the World Cup qualifiers with authority, controlling the group.”

Japan and Belgium have met three times in the past, including in the first round of the 2002 World Cup. Belgium is currently coached by the captain of that 2002 team, Marc Wilmots.

Zaccheroni is starting to feel the heat after Japan lost to Serbia and Belarus away earlier this month, two sides who failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Since the Confederations Cup in June, Japan has just four wins from 11 games — all against badly under-strength teams.

“The objective of our overseas tour is to play the best teams away. Belgium are a perfect matchup for us in that sense,” Zaccheroni said. “Through these games, we will be able to accurately find out where we stand in the world.”