The World Cup’s surprise darkhorses Japan will strive to create further history, but Croatia’s golden generation stand in their way.
After taking down two former champions, giant killers Japan will be eager to pull off another stunning scalp at the tournament when they face Croatia in Monday’s round of 16 clash at the Al Janoub Stadium. Croatia’s experienced stars will have other plans as they look to make sure they have their say in proceedings.
Having been drawn into this year’s so-called “Group of Death” alongside historical powerhouses Germany and Spain, not many people saw Japan making it to the knockout rounds.
However, Hajime Moriyasu’s second-half specialists didn’t only manage to do just that, but better it by topping the group, beating both of the giants in the process despite trailing at half time in both games.
The only botch on their resume was a 1-0 defeat at the hands of lowly Costa Rica sandwiched between two giant-killings.
They took an interesting approach to their first three games, allowing opponents to pin them for 45 minutes before transitioning to a more attacking formation in the second and seeking to raid on the break using lightning-fast counter-attacks and forcing turnovers high up the pitch.
They have excellent technical quick players who are adept in half-turns and transitions. Their humming offensive depth, which they can bring off the bench, has the potential to surprise many.
Croatia, for their part, managed to pull off a scalp of their own. The Chequered Ones put up a tenacious display to dump a star-studded Belgium’s ageing golden generation out of the tournament with a goalless draw in their final group game, even though they rode their luck at times.The 2018 World Cup finalists were the heavy favourites to advance from Group F, and they delivered, but they were far from convincing throughout the group stages, generally looking somewhat stale and impotent, and only did just enough to finish second in their group behind shock group winners Morocco.
To their credit, Croatia were excellent against Canada with Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, and Mateo Kovacic running the show from the middle of the park. While their golden generation’s powers are waning, they can fall back on their wealth of big-stage experience having made it to the final of this competition last time out. Can they make another deep run this time around?
Japan vs Croatia confirmed line-ups
Japan XI (3-4-3): Gonda; Tomiyasu, Yoshida, Taniguchi; Ito, Endo, Morita, Nagatomo; Doan, Maeda, Kamada
Croatia XI (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Barisic; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Petkovic, Perisic
Japan vs Croatia LIVE updates
Japan and Croatia’s upcoming World Cup fixture
The winner of this round of 16 match will face the victor of Brazil’s last-16 clash against South Korea in the quarter-finals next Friday at the Education City Stadium.