The World Cup's surprise package Japan face Croatia in the round of 16 on Monday afternoon.
Japan's opening-game victory over Germany was dubbed "the Miracle of Doha" but Hajime Moriyasu's second-half specialists repeated the trick against Spain in their final match, finishing top of this year's so-called 'Group of Death' despite losing to Costa Rica.
Croatia's first-round qualification was far more measured. A routine triumph over Canada was sandwiched between a pair of goalless draws against Morocco and Belgium for 2018's runners-up.
Here's everything you need to know about the knockout tie between this pair.
Where are Japan vs Croatia playing?
- Location: Al Wakrah, Qatar
- Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium
- Date: Monday 5 December
- Kick-off Time: 15:00 GMT / 10:00 ET / 07:00 PT
Japan vs Croatia H2H Results (All Time)
- Japan: 1 Win
- Croatia: 1 Win
- Draws: 1
Current Form (Last Five Games)
- Japan: DLWLW
- Croatia: WWDWD
Japan team news
Hiroki Sakai and Takehiro Tomiyasu have both been struggling with hamstring problems but the pair made Japan's bench against Spain on Thursday. Tomiyasu came on as a second-half substitute and may be drafted in from the start after centre-back Ko Itakura collected a suspension-inducing second yellow card.
Three of Japan's four goals this winter have come from substitutes, so who Moriyasu leaves on the bench may be as important as those that start.
Japan Starting 11 (3-4-3): Gonda; Tomiyasu, Yoshida, H Ito; J Ito, Endo, Tanaka, Nagatomo; Doan, Asano, Kamada.
Bench: Kawashima, Schmidt, Taniguchi, Morita, Shibasaki, Minamino, Maeda, Soma, Kubo, Machino, Ueda, Mitoma, Sakai, Yamane.
Croatia team news
Zlatko Dalic has employed minimal rotation throughout the tournament. With a clean bill of health for his entire squad, the coach has the luxury of sticking with his trusted starters once again.
Croatia Starting 11 (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic.
Bench: Grbic, Ivusic, Erlic, Sutalo, Vida, Barisic, Stanisic, Jakic, Majer, Pasalic, Sucic, Vlasic, Orsic, Budimir, Petkovic.
Japan vs Croatia betting tips
Croatia to score first & Japan to win – Japan have conceded first in all three of their 2022 World Cup matches but have come back to win two of those, winning 2-1 against Germany and Spain.
Croatia to be winning at half-time and Japan to win at full-time is currently 33/1*
Japan to score 2+ goals and win – All nine of Japan’s wins in all competitions in 2022 have seen them score 2+ goals, including both victories at the World Cup.
Clean sheet – Croatia have kept a clean sheet in five of their last eight matches in all competitions and in two of their three 2022 World Cup matches.
Goalless at half-time – Each of Japan’s last seven goals at the World Cup have come in the second half, while two of Croatia’s games at the 2022 World Cup have been goalless.
Under 2.5 match goals – Two of Croatia’s three World Cup matches have ended 0-0, while there’s been just one goal scored in the two previous meetings between Japan and Croatia.
Anytime goalscorer – Ritsu Doan has scored two goals in three World Cup group stage games for Japan at this year’s tournament, scoring with both of his shots on target.
Anytime goalscorer – Andrej Kramaric has scored more goals than any other Croatian player in all competitions in 2022 (six) and is one of only two Croatians to score twice in a World Cup match (vs Canada), along with Mario Mandzukic.
Andrej Kramaric to score anytime for Croatia is currently 12/5*
Insights courtesy of Opta. Head to The Analyst Stats Hub for live group stage standings, top scores, match metrics, team stats and much more!
*Odds correct at time of publication. 18+. Please gamble responsibly. BeGambleAware.org
Japan vs Croatia score prediction
On the face of it, Japan's World Cup results have been wildly unpredictable. However, in an attempt to fumble around for some signal amid the noise, there is a tentative pattern. Against Germany and Spain, Japan ceded possession and excelled when bursting forward in transition. Costa Rica didn't want anything to do with the ball, frustrating Japan with a compact shape before scoring with their only shot on target.
Croatia boast a midfield comparable in technical quality to that of Spain. Dalic's side sit a bit deeper and aren't wedded to the ball as much as their European counterparts but pose a broadly similar opponent for Japan - who clearly have an effective approach in this type of encounter.
This World Cup has been full of shocking results so far, why can't Japan cause another upset and reach the quarter-final?
Prediction: Japan 2-1 Croatia
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