Khalifa International Stadium forms the backdrop for a ‘make or break’ 2022 World Cup Group E fixture between Japan and Spain on Thursday at 7.00 pm.
With all four sides able to progress on a nail-biting final day, you’d be better off fastening your seatbelts as one of the most enthralling group-stage finales is upon us.
Japan stunned world football on the opening matchday, as Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano helped overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit and beat Germany 2-1.
However, Hajime Moriyasu’s men flopped in the follow-up, allowing Costa Rica to take them down 1-0 last time out and blow this section wide open ahead of round three.
Of all the teams in Group E, the Spaniards boast the best chance of reaching the knockout stage for the second time in a row after picking up four points in the first two matches.
Following a 7-0 humbling of Costa Rica in their World Cup opener, Spain shared the spoils in an evenly-contested 1-1 draw against Germany, with Alvaro Morata coming on from the bench the win the ‘MOTM’ award.
A point against Japan would fly Luis Enrique’s side into the last 16, no matter what happens in the group’s other encounter between the Germans and the Costa Ricans.
Japan could not have timed their first-ever defeat at the hands of a CONCACAF nation (W3, D1) any worse, missing out on a golden opportunity to secure back-to-back appearances in the World Cup knockout phase for the first time.
Moriyasu’s men have now suffered three losses across their last four World Cup outings (W1), as many as in their previous nine in the competition beforehand (W3, D3).
So it’s unsurprising that the odds are stacked against them as they stare down the barrel of consecutive scoring blanks at the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
Extra time and penalties excluded, Spain haven’t lost any of their last seven World Cup fixtures (W3, D4), accounting for their longest undefeated streak in the tournament since a run of ten between 1998 and 2006.
What’s more, the Spaniards have developed a habit of finishing off their World Cup group stage campaigns strongly, winning their final match in eight of their last nine participations in the World Cup.
If La Furia Roja fans are worried about their country’s chances of progressing in case of a shock defeat here, they should be safe and sound, thanks mainly to their superior goal difference.
Japan vs Spain Head-to-Head
The only previous match between Spain and Japan took place in 2001, with the Iberian country registering a 1-0 friendly win. But the Spaniards have never lost to Asian opposition at the World Cup, winning three times and drawing twice across their five such fixtures.
Japan vs Spain Potential Line-ups
Japan (3-4-3): Shuichi Gonda; Ko Itakura, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Ito; Yamane, Wataru Endo, Ao Tanaka, Yuto Nagatomo; Junya Ito, Takuma Asano, Daichi Kamada.
Spain (4-3-3): UnaiSimon; Dani Carvajal, Rodri, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Koke; Ferran Torres, Alvaro Morata, Dani Olmo.
Japan vs Spain Prediction
Japan’s wildly contrasting fortunes at the tournament make it almost impossible to predict which version of the Samuari Blue the Khalifa International Stadium crowd will get to see.
Meanwhile, Spain will be out to finish what they started and we expect them to beat Moriyasu’s side and hand Germany a much-needed helping hand.
Japan 1-2 Spain
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