The final matchday in Group E of the 2022 FIFA World Cup sees Spain and Japan facing off at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. Spain currently top the group with four points from their first two matches following their 1-1 draw with Germany, while Japan’s shock 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica has them sitting second on three points. The disappointing defeat has the Japanese now faced with the prospect of needing at least a draw against a high-flying Spanish team if they are to book their spot in the knockout stages of the World Cup for the third time in the last four iterations of the tournament. The Samurai Blue can top the group with a win over Spain and Costa Rica failing to win, while they would also be through in second-place with a draw should Costa Rica and Germany also draw their match. If Japan draw and Germany win by more than one goal against Costa Rica, the Japanese will be eliminated in the group stage.
Despite sitting top of the group, Spain are not guaranteed passage into the final 16. A defeat to Japan in this match coupled with a Costa Rica win would see La Roja eliminated, while a Germany victory in the same situation would see the unlikely scenario of the Germans having to overturn a goal difference deficit of eight goals. A victory sees Spain finish as Group E winners, while a draw combined with a Costa Rica draw or loss also sees Luis Enrique’s men finish top.
Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu opted to switch to a back three system at half time in two consecutive matches and could well set his side up in that formation to begin the match against Spain. Wingback Takehiro Tomiyasu could be in line for a start if that is the case after the Arsenal defender sat out in the loss against Costa Rica with a hamstring issue. Their other wingback option, Hiroki Sakai also missed out on the previous match with a similar injury although could be available for selection here. On the other side, Spain manager Luis Enrique has no injury concerns to deal with as his entire 26 man squad is fit. Striker Alvaro Morata, who again scored after coming in off the bench, will be pushing for a start here while Enrique may also be tempted to rotate his midfield with Spain’s wealth of talent in that area of the pitch.
Japan showed they can be deadly against high possession teams as they carved open the German defense to score two goals in their World Cup opener. However, they’ll be up against arguably the best passing team in the world in Spain and a defense that has been much more consistent than their German counterparts. La Roja have looked like one of the best teams in the tournament so far and shouldn’t struggle too much against a Japanese side that conceded a goal to Costa Rica with their only shot on target. Expect Japan to have very few opportunities in this match with Spain controlling the ball and creating the majority of the chances. For that reason we are going to back Spain to win and for there to be over 1.5 total goals scored in the match.
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