Group E leaders Spain will lock horns with second-placed Japan in what is expected to be an exciting 2022 World Cup contest at the Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday evening.
Both nations failed to claim maximum points in their last group game, with La Roja forced to share the spoils with Germany, while the Blue Samurai suffered defeat against Costa Rica.
Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan remain in the hunt to progress to the last 16 for the second successive World Cup, and know that a victory against 2010 world champions Spain will see them qualify.
A draw, meanwhile, could be enough to edge them through if Costa Rica fail to beat Germany or if the latter fail to win by two or more goals, but a defeat against La Roja would knock them out of the competition.
Moriyasu says the loss to Costa Rica is “already in the past”.
“We don’t want to get either too up or too down – my approach doesn’t change,” he said.
“Of course when we win I’m happy and we have a defeat like yesterday I’m frustrated. But we don’t want to be up and down like we’re riding a roller-coaster.”
“We’ve already moved on and we’re preparing for the Spain game,” he added.
“Whatever the result of the first two games were, you have to think only about the next one.
“We’ve thought about what went wrong and we’re looking to turn that into energy for the Spain game.”
Spain will be confident of returning to winning ways on Thursday as they have never lost in five previous World Cup meetings against Asian opposition in 90 minutes – a penalty-shoutout defeat to South Korea back in 2002 is one small blot on their copybook.
La Roja have also won their final group fixture in eight of their last nine participations at the World Cup, with a 2-2 draw against Morocco in 2018 the only exception during this run.
Spain coach Luis Enrique says he will not take any risks as they face Japan.
Although the 2010 winners only need a point to qualify for the last 16, all four nations in Group E have a chance to go through on Thursday.
“Don’t write Costa Rica off, they can win against Germany. Any of the four nations can still go through and that is very telling.
“We are here to win seven matches. We want to be winners of this group.”
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