- Khalifa International Stadium
- ITV Hub
- Both teams have scored in five of Japan’s last seven World Cup games.
- Both teams have scored in four of Spain’s last six World Cup contests.
- Seven of Spain’s last 12 major tournament (World Cup, European Championship) games have finished all square, five of them as 1-1 draws.
- Marco Asensio scored in Spain’s 7-0 rout of Costa Rica and grabbed the ET winner against Japan in the Olympic SF two years ago.
Japan and Spain meet for only the second time at mens’ senior international level when places in the round of 16 and the order of Group E is decided at Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday.
Spain started the World Cup in scintillating fashion by thrashing Costa Rica 7-0, but were made to look less like supermen by Germany at the weekend. Die Mannschaft finished with more attempts on and off target, plus a better xG from a slightly inferior share of possession.
Spain are tournament draw specialists
That was in stark contrast to Germany’s first game of Qatar 2022 when they were overturned by Samurai Blue as substitute Takuma Asano turned the tide of the opening group clash in Japan’s favour. Asano was needed off the bench again after a goalless first half against Costa Rica on Sunday, but some sloppy play at the back proved costly as Hajime Moriyasu’s men went down 1-0.
Those two results mean all four teams can still qualify from the group and Spain still have some work to do, although a draw would probably be enough to ensure they finish on top.
Draws are generally what La Roja have been getting at major tournaments with seven of their last 12 games at the 2018 World Cup, Euro 2020 and in Qatar finishing all square. Under Luis Enrique’s guidance, Spain have drawn exactly half of their last eight tournament matches by the same score – 1-1.
Awkward Japan can trouble naive Spanish side
That’s not to imply he is a cautious coach, but he definitely has a preference for working with younger players and there can be some naivete in Spain’s play against the very best. They allowed Croatia to come back from 3-1 down to force extra time at the Euros and then failed to see off ten-man Switzerland until penalties were required in the quarter-finals last year.
While Spain are the fourth-youngest team in terms of average age at this World Cup, Japan are one of the more experienced squads and can be awkward opponents for European sides. They gave Belgium a huge scare at Russia 2018 in a 3-2 last-16 defeat and their 2-1 win over Germany was no fluke.
Taking the draw in the match result market might seem like a solid option, but given both teams have scored in all of Spain’s seven drawn games in the last three major tournaments, taking the lesser price there is a safer play. Both teams have scored in five of Japan’s last seven World Cup games and also in four of Spain’s last six World Cup contests.
Asensio could have the answers for La Roja
There could be a few changes for Spain as Luis Enrique attempts to keep his side fresh throughout the tournament, but the coach did potentially drop some clues with his line-up for the pre-World Cup friendly against Japan’s fellow Asian Confederation rivals Jordan.
Pablo Sarabia and Ansu Fati flanked Marco Asensio up front for that 3-1 win with Gavi joined by Carlos Soler and Koke in midfield. Asensio has attractive anytime goalscorer odds of around 21/10 here, given he hit paydirt with Spain’s second against Costa Rica last week.
The Real Madrid star also scored the extra-time winner when these two nations met at the Olympics last year, deciding the semi-final match with the only goal of the game in the 116th minute.
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