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[monks data]
Japan national football team
World Cup | Group Stage
Dec 1, 2022 at 7pm UK
Spain national football team
2 - 1
Doan (48'), Tanaka (51')
Itakura (39'), Taniguchi (44'), Yoshida (45')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Morata (11')

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

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

Group E leaders Spain will lock horns with second-placed Japan in an intriguing 2022 World Cup contest at the Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday evening.

Both nations failed to claim maximum points in their last group game, with La Roja forced to share the spoils with Germany, while the Blue Samurai suffered defeat against Costa Rica.

Match preview

Costa Rica's Keysher Fuller scores against Japan at the World Cup on November 27, 2022© Reuters

After recording a shock 2-1 comeback victory against Germany in their opening Group E fixture, many tipped Japan to come away with all three points from Sunday's clash against Costa Rica.

However, the Blue Samurai were condemned to a slender 1-0 defeat by their Central American counterparts, with Keysher Fuller scoring the decisive goal nine minutes from time to blow Group E wide open ahead of the final round of fixtures.

Hajime Moriyasu's side remain in the hunt to progress to the last 16 for the second successive World Cup, and know that a victory against 2010 world champions Spain will see them qualify.

A draw, meanwhile, could be enough to edge them through if Costa Rica fail to beat Germany or if the latter fail to win by two or more goals, but a defeat against La Roja would knock them out of the competition.

Whether Japan, ranked 24th in the world by FIFA, can pull off another seismic shock on Thursday remains to be seen, but Moriyasu will be keen to ensure that his team put aside their most recent result and instead replicate their performance from matchday one.

Japan have never faced Spain in a competitive fixture before, with their only previous meeting back in April 2001 when La Roja secured a narrow 1-0 friendly win.

Spain forward Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring against Germany at the World Cup on November 27, 2022© Reuters

Spain missed the chance to book their place in the last 16 over the weekend after they were pegged back by a much-improved Germany outfit to draw 1-1 in Al Khor.

After scoring the final goal in a thumping 7-0 opening win over Costa Rica, Alvaro Morata broke the deadlock against Germany with his second goal of the tournament, flicking a first-time finish from close range past Manuel Neuer just eight minutes after coming off the bench.

However, Die Mannschaft restored parity in the 83rd minute courtesy of a substitute of their own, as Niclas Fullkrug rifled the ball beyond Unai Simon to ensure that the spoils were shared between the two European giants.

While recent media reports are suggesting that head coach Luis Enrique is set to step down at the end of the World Cup and return to club management, the 52-year-old is focused fully on his current job and his La Roja side require just a draw against Japan to reach the knockout rounds for the fifth time in the last six finals.

Spain will be confident of returning to winning ways on Thursday as they have never lost in five previous World Cup meetings against Asian opposition in 90 minutes – a penalty-shoutout defeat to South Korea back in 2002 is one small blot on their copybook.

La Roja have also won their final group fixture in eight of their last nine participations at the World Cup, with a 2-2 draw against Morocco in 2018 the only exception during this run.

Japan World Cup form:

Japan form (all competitions):

Spain World Cup form:

Spain form (all competitions):

Team News

Spain's Gavi celebrates scoring their fifth goal with Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata on November 23, 2022© Reuters

Japan defenders Takehiro Tomiyasu and Hiroki Sakai are both doubtful with hamstring injuries, while midfielder Wataru Endo, who has been absent from first-team training, could also miss out due to a knee problem.

Captain Maya Yoshida is poised to earn his 125th international cap, and the Schalke 04 defender is set to be joined in the back four by Miki Yamane, Ko Itakura and Yuto Nagatomo – the latter of whom has 140 caps to his name.

Either Ao Tanaka or Leganes' Gaku Shibasaki is set to replace Endo in centre-midfield, while Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano – who both scored in the shock win over Germany – will be hoping to start on the flanks, although Real Sociedad's Takefusa Kubo will also be pushing for a starting berth.

Eintracht Frankfurt playmaker Daichi Kamada is expected to continue in the number 10 role in behind either Daizen Maeda or Ayase Ueda.

As for Spain, 18-year-old midfielder Gavi has been absent from training due to a minor injury and is a doubt for Thursday's contest.

In addition, captain Sergio Busquets – who is one booking away from a suspension – is set to be rested, so there could be two midfield spots up for grabs, with Koke, Carlos Soler and Marcos Llorente all hoping to start their first game in Qatar.

However, Manchester City's Rodri could move up from centre-back to replace Busquets in the deep-lying midfield role, with either Pau Torres or Eric Garcia slotting into the heart of the defence alongside Aymeric Laporte.

Morata will be pushing to start in attack after scoring two goals in as many substitute appearances, and he could join Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo in the front three, with Marco Asensio potentially dropping to the substitutes' bench.

Japan possible starting lineup:
Gonda; Yamane, Itakura, Yoshida, Nagatomo; Tanaka, Morita; Doan, Kamada, Kubo; Maeda

Spain possible starting lineup:
Simon; Carvajal, P. Torres, Laporte, Alba; Koke, Rodri, Pedri; F. Torres, Morata, Olmo

SM words green background

We say: Japan 0-2 Spain

Japan's conflicting results in their opening two group matches make them somewhat of an unknown quantity heading into Thursday's clash, but Moriyasu's energetic bunch will relish their underdog status, as they did against Germany, and will bid to pull off another shock result in Doha.

Spain, meanwhile, have made a strong start to their World Cup campaign, and even if Enrique decides to rotate his starting lineup, they should have enough quality to get the job done against Japan.

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 an away win 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.Away Win:data

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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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