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Japan and Spain will round off their World Cup Group E with a collision at Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday evening. It would be the last chance for Samurai Blue to reach the last 16 and extend their trip.

Unexpected defeat made their situation quite challenging. Contrary to general expectation, Japan failed to grab a victory against Costa Rica on 27th November, which made this group competitive and unpredictable. Owing to this, to advance to the knockout round, Japan is now required to beat or draw with Spain, which is quite a tough mission if not impossible.

Hajime Moriyasu said: “Tomorrow is going to be a high-pressure game for our players but we must believe in ourselves. […] Spain is a very tactical as well as a technically strong team under the leadership of Luis Enrique.” This is a difficult but valuable challenge for him to prove his ability as a manager.

As for Spain, they came off with a 1-1 draw against Germany after they overwhelmed Costa Rica with seven goals. Given their performance so far in Qatar, they could dominate the game and create many chances.

When asked if he will make some changes in his starting lineup, Luis Enrique said: “We still have one training session to go so it’s too soon to talk about our lineup. […] It’s true that we are quite advantageous, but we must not speculate. We have to win this game to go through the group.” He declined to mention the details.

Can Japan write their name in history again? All the teams in this group still have a possibility to reach the tournament so the match is crucial and decisive for both sides.

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May 2024