World Cup 2022: Spain vs Japan match preview

Japan have both caused, and suffered, a World Cup upset, and now must win against Spain to qualify for the last 16.

Japan fans celebrate outside the stadium
Japanese fans celebrate after beating Germany [Issei Kato/Reuters]

Who: Spain vs Japan, Group E

Where: Khalifa International Stadium

When: Thursday, December 1, 10pm (19:00 GMT)

FIFA Ranking: Spain (7), Japan (24)

Japan have been an unpredictable team so far in this tournament. They unexpectedly beat Germany in their first match, but then lost to Costa Rica, whom everybody expected them to beat.

WCup Germany Japan Soccer
Japan’s Maya Yoshida and Ko Itakura celebrate Japan’s second goal against Germany [Matthias Schrader/AP Photo]

The Samurai Blue, who are currently level on points with Costa Rica, must beat Spain if they are to guarantee their spot in the last 16. They could still qualify with a draw, but this outcome would depend on the result in the group’s other game, between Germany and Costa Rica.

Spain will automatically qualify with either a draw or a win. If they lose and the other game ends in a win for either Germany or Costa Rica, then Spain will not qualify.

Spain v Germany
Spain put on a fine performance against Germany on Sunday [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

La Roja were imperious in their first match against Costa Rica, thumping them 7-0 with six different players getting on the scoresheet. They then played out a high-quality 1-1 draw with Germany at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.

The two teams have only ever played each other in a 2001 friendly, which Spain won 1-0.

There aren’t many changes expected for either team, although Alvaro Morata may start ahead of Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio after scoring in Spain’s first two matches.

The teams that progress from Group E will play either Morocco, Belgium or Croatia in the next round.

Both Japan and Spain were knocked out in the Round of 16 in the 2018 World Cup: Japan were defeated by Belgium 3-2, while Spain went out to the hosts, Russia, on penalties.

They will both want to go further in 2022 – Spain pushing for a repeat of their 2010 World Cup win – but the two sides face a more imminent test first, against each other.

Source: Al Jazeera