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World Cup Predictions: Croatia vs Japan

Japan will draw inspiration from their fantastic group-stage victories against Germany and Spain when they come across another European opposition in the form of Croatia.

If the Blue Samurais can beat the Chequered Ones, they will be through to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in their history.

Croatia are yet to hit the highs of their 2018 World Cup campaign this time around, but they will feel they have a decent chance of extending their World Cup journey at Japan’s expense.

Japan engineered another miraculous comeback to beat Spain 2-1 in their final match and win their group against the odds.

Álvaro Morata gave Spain an early lead, but Ritsu Doan scored a stunner in the opening minutes of the second half to cancel it out. Ao Tanaka scored the second a few minutes later to turn the tie on its head.

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu has emerged as one of the brightest tactical minds in the tournament.

His brilliance in-game management has helped Japan to overcome deficits against Germany and Spain. So, even if they fall behind against Croatia in the early stage of the match on Monday evening, they will be confident of their chances of making a comeback.

Croatia did not lose to Japan in their previous two meetings at the World Cup.

But Zlatko Dalić’s side would be wary of Japan’s potent counter-attacking threat and their own struggles in front of the opposition goal.

The 2018 runner-ups would have crashed out of the tournament had Belgium taken their chances in the final Group F match.

Croatia failed to score in two of their three group matches. They did put four past Canada, but Croatia should expect a more compact rearguard awaiting them at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday.

Croatia need to rediscover their scoring boots if they are to see off a highly spirited Japanese side.

The European team are currently on a nine-match run across all competitions. But that could come to an end if they don’t step up in the Round of 16.

Team News

Arsenal right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu is set to replace Ko Itakura in the starting XI.

Itakura is ineligible to play against Croatia as he picked up his second yellow card in the group stages in the Spain match.

Real Sociedad winger Takefusa Kubo also might miss out as he struggles with a muscle injury. There is stiff competition in the Japanese attacking department, but Daichi Kamada should expect to keep his place in the starting lineup.

Croatia have a clean bill of health ahead of the game. But Luka Modrić and Dejan Lovren will be suspended for the quarterfinal should they get booked against Japan.

Andrej Kramarić and Marko Livaja both cut dismal figures against Belgium. So slots could open up in the Croatian attack for Bruno Petković, Nikola Vlašić, Mislav Orsic, or Mario Pašalić.

Our Prediction

Croatia did not look to be at their best in the World Cup other than the Canada match.

Japan could build on their group stage performance and secure their maiden voyage to the quarterfinals.

We foresee a 2-1 win for Japan.

Date: 5 December

Kickoff: 8:30 PM IST

Venue: Al Janoub Stadium

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