Japan meets with history before the runner-up

Croatia needs to vindicate itself against a rival that is looking for its first quarterfinals in a World Cup


The teams of Japan and Croatia will challenge each other this Monday at the Al Janoub Stadium (4:00 p.m./La1) for a ticket to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Qatar, in a round of 16 duel in which the Japanese, capable of surprising to Germany and Spain, they want to continue making history and in which the current runner-up in the world needs to improve their performance to stay alive.

Before the ball began to roll, nobody was betting on them in Group E, but the ‘blue samurai’ have earned the status of great revelation of the World Cup by force. In their debut, they did not give up after Ilkay Gündogan put the ‘Mannschaft’ ahead on half an hour and they reacted with goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano (1-2).

Costa Rica managed to appease their euphoria (0-1), completely unleashed last Thursday by beating Spain (2-1) and tying, against all odds, the first position in the group. Once again, the Japanese team recovered from a goal against Álvaro Morata and, in ten minutes, managed to turn the game around.

Only two teams in history -Brazil in 1938 and West Germany in 1970- had achieved the feat of winning two games in the same World Cup in which they had left behind at half-time, and both reached the semifinals of those events. Before, Japan, without the sanctioned Ko Itakura and with the doubt of the Real Sociedad player Take Kubo due to indisposition, will have to sign another milestone: reach the quarterfinals of a World Cup for the first time.

To do this, they will have to follow the plan of Hajime Moriyasu, who has managed to make the team exploit the speed of its wings and revolutionize it from the bench. In fact, three of the four goals for the Asian team in this tournament have come from the boots of substitute players -Ritsu Doan scored the two goals that started the comeback-, as well as one of the assists.

Opposite, Croatia hopes to seize the opportunity to vindicate itself after a group stage in which they did not convince or show their best face, despite ending undefeated. The victory against Canada (4-1) and the goalless draws against Morocco and Belgium allowed them to close Group F in second place.

Now, the runner-up in Russia 2018, who reached the semifinals in the two editions of the World Cup in which they passed the group stage, is looking for one more march, especially after the doubts that arose after the last game against the Belgians, where he failed to shoot on goal in the first 45 minutes.

The veteran Luka Modric will once again lead Zlatko Dalic’s men, who will form with Andrej Kramaric -author of a double against the Canadians-, Marko Livaja and Ivan Perisic as the offensive trident. In three of their last World Cup qualifying games, the Balkans went to extra time and in all three they saw themselves behind before claiming victory.



JAPÓN: Gonda; Taniguchi, Itakura, Yoshida, Nagatomo; Tanaka, Morita, Kamada, Ito; Kubo y Maeda.

CROACIA: Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Livaja y Perisic.

–REFEREE: Ismail Elfath (USA).

–ESTADIO: Al Janoub.

–TIME: 16.00/La1.