ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) - Belgium central defender Vincent Kompany returned to the lineup to face Japan in their World Cup last 16 clash on Monday for his first start at the tournament after picking up a groin strain in a warm-up match a month ago.
Kompany, Belgium’s veteran defensive talisman, comes in for Dedryck Boyata and will be partnered by Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in a back three while playmaker Eden Hazard retains the captaincy.
Romelu Lukaku is also back as the central striker, with coach Roberto Martinez recalling his biggest name players after fielding practically a reserve team in their 1-0 win over England in their final Group G game.
Japan manager Akira Nishino has picked the same 11 players that drew 2-2 against Senegal in their penultimate group game, restoring Shinji Kagawa, Takashi Inui, Genki Haraguchi and Yuya Osako as his side target reaching the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time after failing twice in the last 16.
Nishino had been criticized for rotating his squad and for his negative tactics in Japan’s 1-0 defeat by Poland in their final Group H game that saw them scrape into the second round.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris