(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
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Doha: A poor show against Costa Rica has let Japan down but the Samurai Blue have already shown what they are capable of by shocking four-time winners Germany in their Group E opener.
Hajime Moriyasu insisted his players“must believe in themselves” as they brace for a crucial match against 2010 champions Spain – one of the favourites to lift the trophy – who thumped Costa Rica 7-0 and played a 1-1 draw against Germany.
Japan will go into the tough clash at the Khalifa International Stadium tonight knowing their fate hangs in balance after a shock 1-0 loss to Costa Rica despite a flying start that saw them shocking Germany 2-1 after second half goals.
The former Asian champions are second in the group with three points with Spain – on four points – leading the group. Costa Rica are third behind Japan on goal difference.
Moriyasu's side will qualify for the last 16 stage if they manage to beat Spain and they can also advance by sharing points with La Roja, if Germany and Costa Rica also play a draw in today's other group game.
“Tomorrow is going to be a high pressure game for our players but we must believe in ourselves,” Japan coach Moriyasu told reporters yesterday.
“They must believe in themselves, they must believe in their teammates in order to fight against our opponent. It is always an important match that never changes,” he added.
Moriyasu said that he expects his side to be at best in their quest to pull off another upset in Qatar.
“I don't really feel pressure, the question is whether we can play our best. We can't have any regrets in this regard. We always aim to win and that's going to be the same tomorrow against Spain,” he said.
“That's the only thought I have in my mind. We are going to be facing another nation that has won the World Cup and we will try our best and that is our only thought at the moment,” he added.
Japan made their World Cup debut in 1998 and since then they have been regulars in the tournament. They reached the last 16 stage in 2002, 2010 and 2018 with Moriyasu's side hoping to reach the quarter-finals for first time.
Enrique unperturbed by potential Brazil quarter-final clash
Meanwhile, Spain, who are the top scorers in the World Cup so far with eight goals, only need a draw to enter the last 16 stage.
They will top the group with a victory over Japan, which is what Luis Enrique wants from his side.
“We are only thinking of winning because all the four teams can still qualify from the group. We want to be the group winners. We cannot and should not speculate,” Spain coach told reporters yesterday.
There have been talks that Spain can avoid a potential quarter-final clash with hot favourites Brazil if they finish runners-up in the group but Enrique said his team must be ready for any side.
“Playing for a World Cup you have to beat everyone you face. High-level sport doesn't know about speculation or we do not understand it that way. Being first would mean that we have been better,” he said.
“Imagine, we're in the 90th minute, stoppage time arrives, and both games are 0-0. And in the 95th minute with 15 seconds to go, Japan score and Costa Rica score. You've speculated for 95 minutes and been eliminated in the 95th.
“Or the reverse. Germany are winning their game 5-0 and we are at 0-0, which is good for us, and then we concede and we're out,” he explained.“When you are convinced that your team is a very good team and that we want to play seven games, we don't want to come second. We want to finish first.”
Enrique said it would be a big test for his side against the Asians, who boast“dynamic” players.
“We want to dominate the game against a capable team. They play pressing football and we must control the start and finish phase,” he said.
Spain and Japan have met once only in a 2001 friendly when La Roja won 1-0.
When: Thursday, Dec. 1, 2200 local (1900 GMT/1400 ET)
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
- Spain won the World Cup in 2010 - their only success to date - while Japan have never progressed beyond the first knockout round, which they have reached three times.
- Spain will advance into the next round with a draw and a win would seal top spot in Group E. Japan, who sit second, risk losing out on a place in the knockout rounds to Germany or possibly Costa Rica, unless they beat Spain.
- Spain are the top scorers so far at the 2022 World Cup with eight goals - seven of them coming in their opening match against Costa Rica.
- Japan's Eiji Kawashima and Yuto Nagatomo are both appearing at their fourth World Cup. Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Seigo Narazaki were the only two Japanese players who had previously appeared at four.
The teams have met only once before in a friendly in 2001 won by Spain 1-0.