2022 World Cup Group E leaders Spain face a hopeful Japan side this Thursday as both nations look to secure qualification for the round of 16. Having failed to register maximum points in their last outing, both teams will be keen on ending their final group fixture on a positive note as Spain look to strengthen their position at the top whilst the Japanese remain in need of a victory to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition.
Amongst the most encouraging teams this tournament, Luis Enrique’s squad will be looking to avoid an upsetting result on Thursday. With an excellent goal difference (7) likely to prove enough to secure qualification from the group, the Spaniards will be keen on maintaining their unbeaten streak moving forward in the competition.
On the other hand, level on points with third-placed Costa Rica, Japan will be needing a victory if the Asian nation is to secure qualification for the knockout stages of the tournament. Having already registered a notable victory over Germany before enduring a loss to Costa Rica in their last outing, Japan will be keen on bouncing back as they look to emerge as surprise qualifiers from the supposed group of death this World Cup.
When & Where?
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium.
Date: Thursday, 1st December 2022.
Time: 19:00 GMT.
Midfielder Wataru Endo is expected to miss out due to a knee injury whilst both Takehiro Tomiyasu and Hiroki Sakai remain doubtful for the fixture owing to hamstring injuries. Japan’s back-four is unlikely to change despite their loss against Costa Rica while both Ao Tanaka and Gaku Shibasaki will be pushing to replace Endo in midfield. Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kobu will be pushing for a starting spot, although coach Hajime Moriyasu will likely stick with the same attackers that delivered the encouraging result against Germany in their opening fixture.
18-year-old midfielder Gavi emerges as a doubt for the tie having not been able to train with the team owing to a minor injury. Additionally, captain Sergio Busquests is likely to be granted a rest while Carlos Soler, Koke, and Marcos Llorente remain in contention to start the game on Thursday. Striker Alvaro Morata is likely to be granted a start having made a positive impact off the bench in their last two games while both Eric Garcia and Pau Torres will be pushing for a place at centre-back with Rodri expected to move into midfield against Japan.
With both teams in need of three points to cement their place in the round of 16, Thursday’s fixture is expected to produce an exciting match-up on the pitch. Whilst likely to make a number of changes to the starting line-up, Enrique will be keen on witnessing a dominant Spanish performance while Japan will be needing to cause an upset if they are to move further into the competition.
Expected to employ a positive approach from the first whistle, Japan will be keen on building pressure on the opposition on Thursday. With the team’s strength lying in their pace and ability to strike on the counter-attack, the Asian nation will be relying on the same in stretching the Spanish defence in a bid to exploit spaces along the flanks on the pitch. Moreover, having proven to be clinical in front of the goal, Japan will be keen on making the best of their goal-scoring opportunities on Thursday.
Meanwhile, likely to dominate possession for most part of the game, Spain will be looking to retain control and dictate the play from midfield against Japan. Expected to seek advantage of the opposition’s need for three points, Enrique is likely to employ a balanced approach aimed at making the best use of half-spaces alongside retaining possession higher up the pitch on Thursday. With the team having proven to be exceptional in front of goal, the Spaniards will be looking to maintain their impressive form moving further into the competition.
Ritsu Doan – Japan
Having made a positive impact against Germany, Doan is likely to emerge as a pivotal figure in Japan’s prospects for a victory against Spain. Boasting pace and the ability to find the back of the net, the winger will be expected to exploit spaces in the wide areas of the pitch whilst assisting the team in retaining possession across the attacking third on Thursday.
Alvaro Morata – Spain
Having found the back of the net in each of his last two outings, Morata will be keen on continuing his impressive goal-scoring form against Japan. Amongst the players expected to trouble the Japanese backline on Thursday, the striker will be looking utilise his movement and finishing ability in disrupting the opposition’s organisation on the pitch.
Japan predicted lineup vs Spain: Shuichi Gonda; Miki Yamane, Kou Itakura, Maya Yoshida, Yuto Nagamato; Ao Tanaka, Hidemasa Morita; Ritsu Doan, Daichi Kamada, Takefusa Kubo; Daizen Maeda.
Spain predicted lineup vs Japan: Unai Simon; Dani Carvajal, Pau Torres, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Koke, Rodri, Pedri; Ferran Torres, Alvaro Morata, Dani Olmo.