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Japan national football team
World Cup | Last 16
Dec 5, 2022 at 3pm UK
Al Janoub Stadium
Croatia national football team
1 - 1
Maeda (43')
Perisic (55')
Kovacic (90'), Barisic (116')
Croatia win 3-1 on penalties

Preview: Japan vs. Croatia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Monday's World Cup clash between Japan and Croatia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Resident World Cup 2022 giant killers Japan will endeavour to pull off another impressive scalp at the tournament when they tackle Croatia in Monday's last-16 clash at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Hajime Moriyasu's men remarkably finished first in Group E above Spain and Germany, while the 2018 runners-up were forced to settle for second in Group F behind Morocco.

Match preview

Japan's Ao Tanaka celebrates scoring against Spain at the World Cup on December 1, 2022© Reuters

It was camera angles galore when Ao Tanaka found himself in the right place at the right time to prod home Japan's second goal in their 2-1 win over Spain, who had taken the lead against the Asian nation before Moriyasu's half-time substitutions paid dividends once more.

Alvaro Morata took just 11 minutes to break the deadlock for Spain before substitute Ritsu Doan's venomous leveller, and fellow half-time change Kaoru Mitoma just about managed to keep the ball in play for Tanaka to settle the contest and book Japan's last-16 place in dramatic fashion.

Any team that beats the 2010 and 2014 world champions in one tournament no doubt deserves a place in the knockout rounds, and Japan have finally broken their cycle of a last-16 place followed by a group stage exit, having also got to the knockout phase in Russia four years ago.

The Samurai Blue are far from the finished product, as evidenced by their disappointing 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on matchday two, but they could now set up an all-Asian quarter-final with South Korea, although their near neighbours must first eliminate Brazil in their last-16 battle.

Japan are still waiting for their first quarter-final appearance at a World Cup and are no strangers to having their backs against the wall - averaging just 32.3% possession in Qatar so far - and Moriyasu's super subs must continue to prove as effective as ever if history is to be made on Monday.

Croatia and Belgium in action at the World Cup on December 1, 2022.© Reuters

Had Romelu Lukaku been able to finish one of the plethora of gilt-edged chances he inexplicably wasted against Croatia, the Chequered Ones could very well have been heading out of the competition, but the Chelsea attacker's profligacy worked in their favour to the extreme.

Steadfast defending from in-demand RB Leipzig starlet Josko Gvardiol also helped get Zlatko Dalic's side over the line in a 0-0 draw, which saw the 2018 runners-up finish second in Group F behind Morocco and qualify for the knockout rounds by the skin of their teeth.

Putting four goals past Canada is all well and good for Croatia - as is their stellar defensive record, with just one goal conceded in the tournament so far - but they have already failed to score in as many games at this World Cup as they had done in their previous 13 matches.

Nevertheless, the Chequered Ones now come into the last-16 clash on a nine-game unbeaten run across all tournaments and progressed from both of their previous ties at this stage of the competition, but Dalic's side can take nothing for granted against the counter-attacking machine that is Japan.

Since suffering a 4-3 loss in their first meeting with Japan 25 years ago, Croatia have since beaten the Samurai Blue at the 1998 World Cup before playing out a goalless draw in the 2006 edition, and yet another low-scoring affair in Qatar is not beyond the realm of possibility in this last-16 showdown.

Japan World Cup form:

Japan form (all competitions):

Croatia World Cup form:

Croatia form (all competitions):

Team News

Japan's Ritsu Doan celebrates scoring against Spain at the World Cup on December 1, 2022© Reuters

Japan manager Moriyasu witnessed defender Ko Itakura pick up his second yellow card of the World Cup in the win over Spain, meaning that he will be suspended for the last-16 battle, so Takehiro Tomiyasu should come in to deputise after also performing well off the bench in midweek.

Stuttgart midfielder Wataru Endo shook off a fitness concern to come on as a substitute in that game, and right-back Hiroki Sakai has also rejoined training, but Takefusa Kubo is a fresh doubt due to muscular discomfort.

Not for the first time in Qatar, the Japan boss is facing the best kind of selection dilemma in the final third, where Doan has surely done enough to come in for the stricken Kubo, but Mitoma's efforts may not be enough to edge out Daichi Kamada.

As for Croatia, Dalic is unsure if left-back Borna Sosa will be available for the contest as the Stuttgart man battles a fever, while fellow defender Josip Stanisic is set to miss out with a muscular problem.

Dalic should otherwise have all of his options available, but veteran pair Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren will miss any potential quarter-final if they are booked here.

Neither man will lose their place in the XI here, though, with Dalic set to stick with his tried-and-tested 4-3-3 formula, but there could be scope for a change or two in the final third.

Andrej Kramaric and Marko Livaja both failed to shine in the goalless draw with Belgium, and Dalic is not short of options in attack, where Bruno Petkovic, Mislav Orsic, Nikola Vlasic and Mario Pasalic are all vying for opportunities.

Japan possible starting lineup:
Gonda; Tomiyasu, Taniguchi, Yoshida; Ito; Morita, Tanaka, Nagatomo; Doan, Maeda, Kamada

Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Barisic; Kovacic, Brozovic, Modric; Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic

SM words green background

We say: Japan 1-1 Croatia (a.e.t, Croatia advance on penalties)

With a penchant for lightning quick counter-attacks and a wealth of players in reserve waiting to make a difference, Japan have every right to feel that another shock is on the cards, and finding a consistent attacking formula has not been on the agenda for Croatia.

While we do expect the Samurai Blue to make the net ripple, trying to score more than once may prove to be a fruitless endeavour against a dogged Dalic-led defence, and we would not be surprised to see this one decided from 12 yards as Croatia deny Japan a first-ever quarter-final appearance.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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Japan's Ao Tanaka celebrates scoring against Spain at the World Cup on December 1, 2022
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Group A

Q Netherlands Netherlands32107
Q Senegal flag Senegal32016
3 Ecuador flag Ecuador31114
4 Qatar Qatar30030

Group B

Q England flag England32107
Q United States USA31205
3 Iran Iran31023
4 Wales flag Wales30121

Group C

Q Argentina Argentina32016
Q Poland Poland31114
3 Mexico Mexico31114
4 Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia31023

Group D

Q France France32016
Q Australia Australia32016
3 Tunisia Tunisia31114
4 Denmark Denmark30121

Group E

Q Japan Japan32016
Q Spain Spain31114
3 Germany Germany31114
4 Costa Rica flag Costa Rica31023

Group F

Q Morocco Morocco32107
Q Croatia Croatia31205
3 Belgium Belgium31114
4 Canada Canada30030

Group G

Q Brazil Brazil32016
Q Switzerland Switzerland32016
3 Cameroon flag Cameroon31114
4 Serbia Serbia30121

Group H

Q Portugal Portugal32016
Q Republic of Korea South Korea31114
3 Uruguay flag Uruguay31114
4 Ghana flag Ghana31023

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