For Japan, this match is an opportunity for them to go beyond the round of 16 for the first time in their history. Previously, they withdrew from this stage of the FIFA World Cup finals in 2002, 2010 and 2018. for the first time in FIFA World Cup history, they reached the title round. The only other time they went beyond the group stage was in 1998 when they reached the semi-finals. Clearly, a lot is at stake for both teams.
FIFA World Cup 2018 runners-up Croatia will be looking to extend their stay at the 2022 FIFA World Cup when they face Japan in the Round of 16 at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday.
Japan’s journey in the 2022 FIFA World Cup so far
Japan have been drawn in Group E for the tournament’s group stage alongside European heavyweights Spain and Germany, with Costa Rica as the fourth team.
Japan started their campaign at the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a game against 2014 champions Germany. On paper, the battle between the two teams seemed one-sided. Germany started the competition well as Ilkay Gundogan had no problem converting from the spot to give his side a 1-0 half-time lead. But Japan bounced back strongly in the second half as Ritsu Doan and Asano scored in the 75th and 83rd minutes respectively. Germany failed to equalize and Japan wrapped up a shock victory over the former champions.
Next, Japan was to meet Costa Rica. As Japan bounced back from their 2-1 win against Germany, Costa Rica lacked confidence after being beaten 0-7 by Spain. It looked like Costa Rica was going to battle against Japan, but Keysher Fuller’s 81st-minute goal secured a 1-0 victory for the Costa Ricans.
Japan’s last group match was against Spain. Japan needed nothing less than a win to secure a safe passage to the Round of 16. Spanish striker Alvaro Morata shook Japanese hopes in the first half with a header in the 11th minute. But this match followed the pattern of the Japan v Germany encounter, as in the second half, Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka scored two goals to put Japan ahead. Spain also couldn’t get an equalizer and Japan produced another win from behind.
With two wins and one loss, Japan finished top of Group E and qualified for the Round of 16 for the second time in a row.
How Croatia qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Round of 16
Croatia was one of four teams in Group F along with Morocco, Belgium and Canada.
Expectations were high from Croatia for their first match of the tournament against Morocco. After all, the European nation made it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup final before France beat them. But early optimism was washed away as the Croatians were held to a surprise 0-0 draw by brave Moroccans.
Next, Croatia were due to face Canada, who were in a FIFA World Cup final for the first time in 36 years. The moods of the two camps were slightly contrasting. While Croatia were slightly reluctant after the stalemate, Canada were calm as they put Belgium to work hard for a 1-0 victory. Croatia and Canada’s spirit showed on the pitch and Canadian Alphonso Davies scored just two minutes after kick-off, the fastest goal of the tournament to date. But Croatia showed they were still a team to beat with a brace from Andrej Kramaric and goals also from Marko Livaja and Lovro Majer to complete a 4-1 victory.
A draw in their final group game against Belgium would have been enough for Croatia to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. A goalless draw is what Croatia got as the Belgians scored on numerous occasions.
With one win and two draws, Croatia finished second in Group F behind surprise Morocco.
With Japan top of Group E and Croatia second in Group F, the two teams faced off for Game 5 of the tournament’s Round of 16.
For Japan, this match is an opportunity for them to go beyond the round of 16 for the first time in their history. Previously, they pulled out of this leg of the FIFA World Cup finals in 2002, 2010 and 2018.
For Croatia, this round of 16 is a huddle they must get through to regain the heights of 2018 when, for the first time in FIFA World Cup history, they reached the title round. The only other time they went beyond the group stage was in 1998 when they reached the semi-finals.
Clearly, a lot is at stake for both teams.
Form guide (last five games)
Matches played: 3
Japan victory: 1
To draw: 1
Croatia victory: 1
Japan Team News
No injury problem for Japan. Ko Itakura will however be forced to miss this game due to the accumulation of yellow cards during the group stage of the tournament.
Croatia Team News
Croatia don’t have injury worries either.
Possible starting XI
Japan possible starting XI
Gonda, Taniguchi, Yoshida, Tomiyasu, Nagatomo, Morita, Tanaka, Kamada, Maeda, Kubo
Croatia possible starting XI
Livakovic, Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa, Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic, Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic
Japan win: 13/5
Croatia win: 1/1
Japan are the better of the two teams if tournament group stage form is taken as a marker. The team also look good against European nations after beating Germany and Spain. Japan are expected to beat another European nation again with a score of 2-1.
Where to watch and kick-off time:
The match kicks off at 8:30 p.m. IST on Monday, December 5 and will be streamed live on Sports18 and Sports18 HD. Fans can also stream the action online on the JioCinema app.
First post: STI