|Welcome to Sportstar’s live blog of the FIFA World Cup Group E match between Japan and Spain, being played at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar.|
Joined hands, Japanese flags and colours of white and red glowing with happiness and glory on the faces of the fans as they roar and sing with their team’s manager instructing his team on the field.
Spain is dominating the match after most players of its 7-0 win against Costa Rica are on the pitch. Enrique’s tactic to start a young side with five changes backfired and now the La Furia Roja looks almost set to finish as the team placed second in Group E.
All three teams, Japan, Germany and Spain hang by a string for their hopes to qualify. If Spain score, Germany and Japan are through. If Japan wins, Spain and Japan are through.
Two crucial saves! Asensio shoots on target and Honda makes a great save and Yoshida clears the ball away in a crucial clearance by the Blues. The next minute, Olmo makes a run into the box and takes another shot, which is saved by Gonda.
Spain is finally changing gears with progression of play along the wings, but Moriyasu and thousands of Japan fans singing and jumping in the stadium waited with bated breath to see their team win.
Spain resorting to set-pieces with crosses, awaiting header. However, Japan is throwing men at the back now. No more goal concession as the Asian Giant looks to have woken from the slumber of oblivion, beating former World Cup winners Spain and Germany in Qatar 2022 in the Group stage.
Free Kick for Japan! Doan steps up to take the free kick and Itakura heads to see it land comfortably into the hands of Unai Simon. Poor marking by Spain.
Japan has nine men at the back like a fortress, forcing Spain to try long range shots now, but that too is blocked and cleared by Japan.
Japan has one blue shirt clung to Spain’s forward line as its opponent plots a comeback. Asensio beats the back line, to cross for Fati, who heads it to Ferran Torres, but the ball is finally cleared following a low cross from the left.
It is all happening int he FIFA World Cup! Havertz scores the equaliser for Germany and Spain is back at second in Group E. Time for Luis Enrique and his side to keep dreaming to try and score for a comeback.
Spain tries an attack with Asensio making a run behind the defence, but Japan is holding still at the back now and Vargas, meanwhile has scored the leading goal against Germany, which means Costa Rica and Japan are the two in the driving seat to qualify for the round of 16.
Two more changes for Spain! In: Fati, Alba, Out: Gavi, Balde, Change for Japan too! In: Tomiyasu , Out: Kamada
It is all Japan at the moment - the flair, the pressure and the frequency of attack. The Samurai Blues are up and marching further forward in the pitch as drum rolls echo throughout the stadium as Moriyasu’s team can sense more goals in another comeback win.
Spain has been punished for being too comfortable, enjoying possession in the game and now it looks to build again, from the ashes of its lead, from its carcass of Morata’s goal that rose hopes for fans of La Furia Roja at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Double change for Spain! In: Marco Asensio, Ferran Torres , Out: Nico Williams, Alvaro Morata
Moriyasu looks to shift gears in what may be the most important 45 minutes for Japan in the FIFA World Cup. The team had upset Germany in the second half with two goals in this very ground.
Two yellow cards in two minutes ! Shogo Taniguchi gets into the book for a foul on Gavi and Japan’s captain Maya Yoshida gets a booking for a late challenge on Morata.
Olmo gets a through ball from Balde, and tries to run across the box, waiting for a gap, which never arrives and his shot is blocked by Japan.
Yellow Card! Itakura tries to get the ball off Pedri with a challenge from behind and gets booked for the late challenge. It is his second yellow of the tournament, which means he would miss Japan’s potential round of 16 match, if it qualifies.
Japan tries to attack with Ito running up the pitch and he passes to Kamada, who dribbles into the box and shoots. However, Pau Torres is there to make a timely block.
Mistake from Unai Simon! The Spain goalkeeper delays taking the goal kick and Maeda pressurizes him to almost give the ball away as he kicks it to his right and away from Japan.
Japan tries to play one-touch football with Maeda trying to get the ball to Nagatomo, but Spain intercepts to get back possession of the ball, keeping its reputation to regain ball possession after losing it, intact.
Japan looks to be chasing shadows a Spain dominated the match completely, with passes, complete ones, and forcing Japan in its own half.
Foul! Morita tries to get back possession from Spain, trying challenge on Busquets and fouls the Barcelona midfielder for a Spain free-kick, which is taken quickly.
Japan tries to attack against the run of play, something that saw it score the second goal against Germany, but this time Kamada, receicing a through ball along the left flank, falls for the offside trap.
Chance! Gavi makes a good run through the midfield and passes to Morata, whose shot forces a save from Gonda, keeping the score 1-0 in favour of Spain.
Spain has taken just 11 seconds to recover the ball after losing possession, while Japan has taken 72 seconds -- something that tells a lot about the story of the game so far.
The Samurai Blues have five men at the back as they look to stop Spain in their tracks. Olmo, Spain’, however, has chosen to build attacks in the middle so far, with Gavi delivering trough passes into the box.
Spain continues to build from the back as Japan sits sequestered in its own half while Japanese fans go all the more raucous at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Spain marches up the pitch, with combination play from Gavi, Pedri and Busquets and flashes of the Barcelona chemistry is evident in the team as La Furia Roja enjoys possession in the match.
Spain walking on thin ice with the back passes as Maeda presses high up the pitch, but Enrique’s side absorbs the pressure well, and keeps control over the ball, with Pedri pulling strings in the midfield.
Shot! Nico Williams makes a run along the right flank, and crosses in the centre, which is cleared by Japan, but it eventually falls for Busquets, who shoots from distance and the ball flies over the net.
Maeda gets the ball in the midfield, and passes to Kubo, who makes an impressive run along the right flank and crosses to the centre. However, Spain tracks back and clears the ball out of danger.
Japan steals possession eventually but a defensive error awards Nico Williams the ball and La Furia Roja gets back the bal, palying in short passes yet again.
Spain starts the match with its conventional approach of dominating possession and has not allowed Japan to have a touch on the ball in the first one and half minutes of the game.
Time to script history for Japan?
Japan and Spain have met just once this century with the Spaniards winning that mate in 2001, which was an international friendly. Or will it be the last match for the Samurai Blues in the FIFA World Cup.
Japan vs Spain head-to head: April 25, 2001: Japan 0-1 Spain (International Friendly)
After conceding late to miss out on a victory against Germany, Spain finds itself with some work left to do against Japan to guarantee its spot in the round of 16 at the World Cup.
The Spaniards doen’t need much, though, because a draw on Thursday will be enough, and even a loss may allow the team to advance depending on the other Group E result between Germany and Costa Rica.
Japan doesn’t have it as easy, but a win will guarantee the Japanese a place in the knockout stage for the second straight time. It would be the first time Japan advances past the group stage in back-to-back tournaments. If Japan loses, though, the team will head home.
“It’s going to be a high-pressure game for our players,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said Wednesday. “But we must believe in ourselves. The players must believe in themselves and they must believe in their teammates in order to fight against our opponent. Hopefully they will be able to do their best and the result will come.”
The Japanese opened their campaign with a surprising win over four-time champion Germany before losing to Costa Rica. They were eliminated by Belgium in the last 16 in Russia.
Spain, which conceded an 83rd-minute equalizer against Germany, may also go home with a loss if Costa Rica beats the Germans or if the Germans win big to overcome Spain’s goal difference after its 7-0 opening win over Costa Rica.
A victory at Khalifa International Stadium will guarantee Spain first place in the group, and keep it on track for a possible matchup with five-time champion Brazil in the quarterfinals.
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“Hopefully we will get to face Brazil, because that would mean that we finished in first place in our group,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said. “To win a World Cup you need to beat every team, so we are not going to try to avoid anyone.”
Spain enters the final round with four points, one more than both Japan and Costa Rica. Germany has one point.
“We are not thinking about our opponents in the knockout rounds,” Spain midfielder Koke Resurrección said. “We need to beat Japan first and then we’ll see which team we’ll have to play against. If it’s Brazil in the quarterfinals, so be it, and we’ll try to prepare for it as best as possible.”
Germany’s chances of staying alive in Qatar will largely depend on Spain winning its match against Japan. Then a victory over Costa Rica would be enough for the Germans.
What may not help Germany is the fact that Luis Enrique may rotate some of his players after making only one change from the first to the second game — Dani Carvajal coming in for César Azpilicueta at right back.
Teenager Gavi, who started in the first two matches, trained separately from the group after the 1-1 draw with Germany because of a minor knee injury. He was expected to be available for Thursday’s match but was not likely to start.
Another midfielder expected to be rested is 34-year-old Sergio Busquets, the only remaining player from Spain’s World Cup-winning squad in 2010. Striker Álvaro Morata, who scored a goal in each of the first two matches after coming off the bench, could get a spot in the starting lineup against Japan.
The under-23 squads of Spain and Japan met in the semifinals of last year’s Tokyo Olympics, when Spain advanced before eventually losing to Brazil in the final. Several players from those squads made their senior teams in Qatar, including Marco Asensio, who scored Spain’s winner in extra time in the semifinals against Japan, and Takefusa Kubo, who plays for Real Sociedad in the Spanish league.
“Hopefully,” he joked, “if we win the World Cup we can put on a concert.”