Japan vs Croatia World Cup 2022: Date & Time, Match Preview, Team News, Prediction

Japan and Croatia will battle for a place in the quarterfinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the Al Janoub Stadium on Monday.
December 05, 2022 | 14:01

Japan upset the apple cart by finishing at the summit of Group E ahead of former champions Spain and Germany. The Blue Samurai booked their spot in the last 16 with a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory over Spain in their final group game to progress as group winners.

Alvaro Morata's 11th-minute header put the 2010 world champions ahead and seemingly on course for a routine win. But a resurgent start to the second half saw Hajiye Moriyasu's side score two quickfire goals in the space of three minutes to turn the group on its head.

Ritsu Doan leveled matters three minutes after coming on, while Ao Tanaka put Japan ahead in the 51st minute with a controversial goal that was initially ruled out before the intervention of the VAR.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The win saw them become only the third side in World Cup history to win two games at a single tournament in which they were losing at halftime.

Croatia, for their part, put up a dogged performance to hold a star-studded Belgium side to a goalless draw in their final group game.

The 2018 runners-up were far from convincing during the group stages but did enough to secure second spot in Group F behind surprise group winners Morocco.

Their draw against Belgium was their second of the tournament and ensured they finished the group stage with an unbeaten record, winning one and drawing two of their three games.

The winner of the game will secure progress to the quarterfinals, where either Brazil or South Korea will lie in wait.

Match preview

It was camera angles galore when Ao Tanaka found himself in the right place at the right time to prod home Japan's second goal in their 2-1 win over Spain, who had taken the lead against the Asian nation before Moriyasu's half-time substitutions paid dividends once more.

Alvaro Morata took just 11 minutes to break the deadlock for Spain before substitute Ritsu Doan's venomous leveller, and fellow half-time change Kaoru Mitoma just about managed to keep the ball in play for Tanaka to settle the contest and book Japan's last-16 place in dramatic fashion.

Any team that beats the 2010 and 2014 world champions in one tournament no doubt deserves a place in the knockout rounds, and Japan have finally broken their cycle of a last-16 place followed by a group stage exit, having also got to the knockout phase in Russia four years ago.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The Samurai Blue are far from the finished product, as evidenced by their disappointing 1-0 loss to Costa Rica on matchday two, but they could now set up an all-Asian quarter-final with South Korea, although their near neighbours must first eliminate Brazil in their last-16 battle.

Japan are still waiting for their first quarter-final appearance at a World Cup and are no strangers to having their backs against the wall - averaging just 32.3% possession in Qatar so far - and Moriyasu's super subs must continue to prove as effective as ever if history is to be made on Monday.

Had Romelu Lukaku been able to finish one of the plethora of gilt-edged chances he inexplicably wasted against Croatia, the Chequered Ones could very well have been heading out of the competition, but the Chelsea attacker's profligacy worked in their favour to the extreme.

Steadfast defending from in-demand RB Leipzig starlet Josko Gvardiol also helped get Zlatko Dalic's side over the line in a 0-0 draw, which saw the 2018 runners-up finish second in Group F behind Morocco and qualify for the knockout rounds by the skin of their teeth.

Putting four goals past Canada is all well and good for Croatia - as is their stellar defensive record, with just one goal conceded in the tournament so far - but they have already failed to score in as many games at this World Cup as they had done in their previous 13 matches.

Nevertheless, the Chequered Ones now come into the last-16 clash on a nine-game unbeaten run across all tournaments and progressed from both of their previous ties at this stage of the competition, but Dalic's side can take nothing for granted against the counter-attacking machine that is Japan.

Since suffering a 4-3 loss in their first meeting with Japan 25 years ago, Croatia have since beaten the Samurai Blue at the 1998 World Cup before playing out a goalless draw in the 2006 edition, and yet another low-scoring affair in Qatar is not beyond the realm of possibility in this last-16 showdown.

Japan vs. Croatia team news

The biggest concern for Japan is to defender Hiroki Sakai who suffered a hamstring injury against Germany and has been an unused substitute for the two games since. Ao Tanaka had fitness concerns after he was yanked at halftime of the Germany game, and did not play against Costa Rica, but he returned against Spain and will be healthy for the knockout stage. Ko Itakura is suspended for yellow card accumulation.

Croatia have no known injury concerns to worry about. The only major one coming into the tournament was regarding the fitness of midfielder Marcelo Brozovic, but he played every minute of the group stage.

Japan vs Croatia Prediction

Photo: Sporting News
Photo: Sporting News

Croatia were one of the dark horses coming into Qatar but the 2018 runners-up have not set the stage alight. It could be a matter of Zlatko Dalic's side growing into the tournament, with the world's 12th highest-ranked side still possessing numerous world beaters in their ranks.

Japan have been one of the revelations of the tournament, with victories over global heavyweights Spain and Germany highlighting that the Asians are no pushovers. The Blue Samurai have perfected the art of finishing games strongly, having scored all four goals in this tournament after the break.

This trait could come in handy against a Croatian side that have perfected the art of going the distance in tournament knockout games. But history suggests that this could be a low-scoring game.

We are backing both sides to cancel each other out in regulation time, with Croatia to progress thanks to a narrow victory in extra time.

Prediction: Japan 1-1 Croatia (1-2 after extra time)

Japan vs. Croatia key stats

Japan have reached the Round of 16 three previous times in their World Cup history, never progressing past this stage.

Conversely, Croatia have never lost in the Round of 16 on their two previous World Cup knockout stage adventures. The European nation has finished third and second in the two times they've gone past the group stage.

Japan and Croatia have met three times previously, evenly split with each side winning once and one draw. Their two most recent meetings have both come at the World Cup, with the two sides drawing in 1998 and Croatia earning a 1-0 win in 2006.

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