If there’s one team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup that has truly been the surprise package, it’s got to be Japan. This coming Monday, the ‘Blue Samurai’ will take on 2018 World Cup finalists, Croatia in the Round of 16. Here’s a look at the team news for both sides and the expected starting 11s.
Japan vs Croatia: What to know
Coming into this World Cup and looking at Group E, few could imagine that between Germany, Spain, Costa Rica and Japan, the two European nations would have any trouble advancing to the Round of 16. In the end, that was not the case at all. Dubbed the “Miracle of Doha,” the Japanese dismantled Germany in the final minutes of their opening game to send shockwaves around the world. Though they would later fall to Costa Rica in their second game, they would again rise to the occasion against the Spanish in their final game to claim yet another famous win, while simultaneously condemning Germany to a disastrous group stage exit. Coach Hajime Moriyasu and his men have every reason to be confident ahead of their Last 16 match.
On the other side of the divide, Croatia’s first-round qualification was far less dramatic and to an extent, run of the mill. The team, which remains largely the same as the one that lost to France in the finals of the 2018 World Cup, had a goalless draw with Morocco, followed by a routine win over Canada and finally, a goalless draw with Belgium. Due to Belgium’s inability to get going, and a stellar performance by Morocco against the devils, it was enough to see Croatia through. They now face a Japan team that has proven itself to be giant killer twice over. Caution would be advised.
Japan Team News
Hiroki Sakai and Takehiro Tomiyasu have both been struggling with hamstring problems, however, the pair were on the bench during Thursday’s win against Spain. Indeed, Tomiyasu even came on as a second-half substitute and may well be given the starting spot, after center-back Ko Itakura received his second yellow card for the tournament, meaning he will have to sit out the match. Interestingly, three of Japan’s four goals in the tournament have come from substitutes. That’s to say those on the bench may just be as important as those in the starting 11. With that said, let’s take a look at who we expect to see from the start of the match.
Japan predicted lineup vs Croatia
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
If there’s one thing we’ve notice about Croatia during the tournament so far, it’s that there has been minimal rotation in the squad. Coach Zlatko Dalic has had no health or fitness concerns in his squad and with that has seemingly preferred to go with the ‘if it’s not broke don’t fix it’ strategy. To be fair, when you’ve got the likes of Luka Modric in your midfield and Ivan Perisic on your wings, it’s not a bad move to stick with them. At any rate, Croatia has the weaponry to get a win, but it won’t come easy against a team that specializes in second half dramatics.
Croatia predicted lineup vs Japan
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.