Both the teams are yet to qualify in the Round of 16 and thus would want a win.
Thursday night, Japan and Spain will square off with their World Cup 2022 fates still up in the air. To advance, Japan must win, while a draw would be sufficient for La Roja, provided Germany and Costa Rica both draw. La Roja needs just to avoid defeat, while a win would ensure them first place in Group E.
Everything is set for a nail-biting, yet riveting, confrontation on Thursday night.
Date, kick-off time and venue
On Thursday, December 1st, 2022, at 7 p.m. GMT/ December 2nd at 12:30 a.m. IST, Japan and Spain will face off. The match will be placed in Doha, Qatar’s Khalifa International Stadium.
Story of Japan and Spain
After beating Germany 2-1 in their Group E opener, many predicted Japan would beat Costa Rica on Sunday. The Blue Samurai lost 1-0 to their Central American opponents as Keysher Fuller scored nine minutes from time to open up Group E before the final round of games. Hajime Moriyasu’s team can qualify for the final 16 for the second straight World Cup with a win over 2010 world winners Spain.
If Costa Rica or Germany loses by two or more goals, a draw could be enough to advance, but a loss to La Roja would eliminate them. Moriyasu will want his players to forget their recent loss and repeat their matchday one performance on Thursday. FIFA ranks Japan 24th in the globe.
Spain won their sole meeting with Japan in April 2001, a 1-0 friendly triumph. Spain failed to qualify for the last 16 after drawing 1-1 with Germany in Al Khor. Alvaro Morata broke the deadlock against Germany eight minutes after coming off the bench, sending a first-time finish past Manuel Neuer. In the 83rd minute, Die Mannschaft’s substitute Niclas Fullkrug scored past Unai Simon to equalise.
While recent media speculations claim head coach Luis Enrique will step down at the end of the World Cup and return to club management, the 52-year-old is totally focused on his current job and La Roja needs just a draw against Japan to reach the knockout rounds for the fifth time in six finals.
Spain has never lost in 90 minutes to Asian teams at the World Cup, except for a 2002 penalty-shootout loss to South Korea. The lone exception was a 2-2 draw against Morocco in 2018.
Japan form (all competitions):
Spain form (all competitions):
Japan defenders Takehiro Tomiyasu and Hiroki Sakai are doubtful with hamstring problems, while midfielder Wataru Endo, who has missed first-team training, may miss out with a knee injury. Captain Maya Yoshida will play alongside Miki Yamane, Ko Itakura, and Yuto Nagatomo, who has 140 caps. Ao Tanaka or Leganes’ Gaku Shibasaki will replace Endo in centre-midfield, while Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano, who scored in the upset win against Germany, will hope to start on the flanks, along with Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo.
Eintracht Frankfurt playmaker Daichi Kamada will likely play number 10 behind Daizen Maeda or Ayase Ueda.
Spain’s 18-year-old midfielder Gavi is a doubt for Thursday’s match. However, captain Sergio Busquets, who is one booking away from a suspension, will be rested, leaving two midfield slots open for Koke, Carlos Soler, and Marcos Llorente to start their first game in Qatar. Manchester City’s Rodri might step up from centre-back to replace Busquets in the deep-lying midfield role, with Pau Torres or Eric Garcia joining Aymeric Laporte in the defence. However, after scoring two goals in two substitute appearances, Morata could start in attack with Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo, with Marco Asensio dropping to the bench.
Japan possible starting lineup:
Gonda; Yamane, Itakura, Yoshida, Nagatomo; Tanaka, Morita; Doan, Kamada, Kubo; Maeda
Spain possible starting lineup:
Simon; Carvajal, P. Torres, Laporte, Alba; Koke, Rodri, Pedri; F. Torres, Morata, Olmo
Players to watch
The Barcelona team’s success so far in the competition has been built on the shoulders of the midfielder, who has gotten off to a red-hot start and will be relied upon heavily together with Pedri for the rest of the competition.
In both of his country’s games, the forward came on in the second half, and the intensity level of the team increased as he entered the game. He scored Japan’s game-winning goal in the first round and will be trying to do the same against Spain.
One friendly match between these two countries took place in 2001. A goal from Ruben Baraja was the difference in a 1-0 victory over La Roja.
Japan stunned Germany in their first game of the tournament, but they threw away their early success by losing to Costa Rica by a score of 1-0. The Blue Samurai may not benefit from the continued pressure on Spain.
However, With eight goals scored in two games (even if seven of them came against Costa Rica), Spain should have more than enough to take care of business.
Prediction: Japan 0-2 Spain
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