After their brilliant comeback from 1-0 to win 2-1 against Germany in matchday one of the group E, Japan needs a win to secure their spot in the round of 16 in their final group match against Spain at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan on Thursday.
Spain made a banging start to their campaign as they overpowered Costa Rica to a 7-0 victory, before their draw against Germany, who are now on the brink of elimination from back-to-back World Cups.
Hajime Mariyasu’s side are looking for successive round of 16 qualifications as a victory against La Roja will see them through. Should they fail to win and draw their match, they will still have the chance of qualifying if the match between Germany and Costa Rica ends up in a draw or a Germany win by less than two goals. If they lose, any result in the other match will see them knocked out.
Contrary to that, the equation for Spain is not so complicated. They would qualify if they avoid defeat against Japan. A loss would see them qualify for the knockouts should the match between Germany and Costa Rica ends in a draw, as they have a huge goal difference thanks to their 7-0 victory in the opening game. Spain can only go out if they lose their game, and Germany beats Costa Rica by a seven-goal margin or more.
Spain can be confident of qualifying as they have history on their side. La Roja have never lost a World Cup match against any Asian side in 90 minutes in all their previous five encounters. They have won eight out of their last nine final group stage games except a 2-2 draw against Morocco in 2018.
Japan, on the other hand, have lost three of their last four World Cup games.
Spain won the only match between the two nations across all competitions 1-0 back in 2001.
Spain are currently playing some great football as Luis Enrique has managed to put together a good team filled with youngsters such as Pedri, Gavi, Rodri, Ferran Torres, Nico Williams, and Dani Olmo alongside veterans in Sergio Busquets, Dani Carvajal, Jordi Alba, Koke, and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Ahead of the match, Koke said that the Spanish veterans were learning from youngsters such as Pedri.
“The two of them (Pedri and Gavi) make magic, their level is spectacular given their age. Pedri is spectacular, you might not think so but the older players learn from the younger ones, he does things that many of us don’t do on the pitch. I learn from him, seeing the good things he does, it’s spectacular playing beside Pedri,” Koke said in a press conference Tuesday.