Japan: Gonda, Itakura, Yoshida, Taniguchi, Junya Ito, Morita, Tanaka, Nagatomo, Kamada, Maeda, Kubo. Subs: Kawashima, Yamane, Endo, Shibasaki, Doan, Mitoma, Minamino, Tomiyasu, Asano, Sakai, Machino, Ueda, Schmidt, Soma, Hiroki Ito.
Spain: Simon, Azpilicueta, Rodri, Pau Torres, Balde, Gavi, Busquets, Gonzalez, Williams, Morata, Olmo. Subs: Sanchez, Garcia, Llorente, Koke, Asensio, Ferran Torres, Raya, Guillamon, Pino, Jordi Alba, Carlos Soler, Carvajal, Sarabia, Laporte, Fati.
Referee: Victor Gomes (South Africa)
Alex Reid previewed this game for today’s World Cup briefing.
Japan v Spain (Group E, 7pm GMT, ITV1) A point would take Spain through, but a victory guarantees top spot and Luis Enrique’s slick young passers are unlikely to get bogged down with nefarious thoughts of a draw potentially hurting Germany’s chances. Expect Spain to hog possession and play for the win. Japan can take heart from the fact that they beat Germany (when expected to lose) and lost to Costa Rica (when expected to win). An underdog role may suit them and a point will be enough if Germany and Costa Rica draw. AR
Of course Rodri at centre-back for Spain.
Rodri was used at the heart of defence by Pep Guardiola – obviously – on a handful of occasions in the 2019-20 campaign, but he is inexperienced in the role. Throwing him in at the deep end at a World Cup was a risk, but Rodri has handled it well. At 6ft 2in, he has the physicality to play the role and he is brilliant at dispossessing opponents – only Declan Rice (82) has won possession in the midfield third more times than Rodri (70) in the Premier League this season. Rodri has the tools to excel at centre-back in the modern game, given his tenacity off the ball and impressive distribution when in possession.
Aymeric Laporte, the Spain defender, spoke to Sid Lowe in Doha.
Too much, Laporte insists. It doesn’t even make sense, Spain are not in a position to run risks. “Nothing’s clear: no one has anything assured,” he says. As for the pathway, he insists: “I haven’t even looked.” He grins but it’s believable. “I haven’t looked, haven’t done the predictions, haven’t done anything.” Do you even know which group yours crosses with? Spoiler: it’s F. “No idea.” You could tell him anything. England next. Laporte laughs. “Honestly, when I play for City, I don’t even know what time kick-off is. My family call and say: hey, what time tomorrow? ‘I don’t know.’”
So much for Mr Intensity, Luis Enrique is a chilled-out entertainer, streaming on social media and honestly really really relaxed at his news conference.
My streaming sessions and posting, everyone can have their own reading or interpretation, I didn’t start doing this with any specific goal.
There are so many cliches about training camps having to be very strict. I don’t know who came up with this. Imagine how long the players are off. They have so much time off to be bored. Having to follow strict rules. That’s ridiculous.
The only goal I set for my players…before this training camp 16 days ago, I told them we need to have fun, fun. We need to enjoy this because you have to joy in your job.
They’re football players. Some of them are young boys. They have family children, who have to act with normalcy
Having a day off after 10 days of a training camp. It’s not crazy. To go out for a walk with your wife, family members. That’s a good sign. Yes, they’re under so much pressure.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu spoke at his news conference ahead of the match.
They must believe in themselves, they must. They must believe in their team mates in order to fight against our opponent. Hopefully, they will be at their best and the result will follow.
The whole world is keeping in step with European football. Both tactically and physically, I think there are similarities in trends across the world, and the gap is narrowing.
We should be able to narrow the gap with the big teams as we play against them, and as we learn from them at this World Cup, we will also be able to find out how to exceed them.
We are going to show the Japanese spirit and pride and we are going to counter our opponents, fight our opponents. I hope that the players will play in such a way that they inspire the Japanese people then they keep inspiring other people.
Group E – Costa Rica, Germany, Japan, Spain
Final matches Thursday 1 December, 7pm GMT: Costa Rica v Germany, Japan v Spain
Spain: A draw will be enough for Spain to progress. However, if they lose and Costa Rica beat Germany, they will be eliminated – which would be a huge shock after opening the tournament with a 7-0 win.
Japan: A win against Spain will see Japan qualify. A draw means they are relying on Costa Rica and Germany drawing to progress. If Japan draw and Costa Rica win, Japan are out. If Japan draw and Germany win by just one goal, whoever has scored the most goals will go through. If Japan draw, and Germany win by more than one goal, Japan are out.
Costa Rica: A win will put Costa Rica through. A draw will be enough if Spain also beat Japan. If Japan get a draw, Costa Rica’s vastly inferior goal difference means they would not progress.
Germany: The Germans can qualify if they beat Costa Rica and Spain beats Japan. A draw is of no use to them.
The two great shocks of this tournament came when Saudi Arabia beat Argentina, and then when Japan beat Germany. Wednesday saw the Saudis perish, now can the Japanese avoid the same fate? Their losing to Costa Rica came as something of a shock, too, but now they must stage a repeat performance of their opener. Or draw and hope for the match between and Costa Rica to go their way.
Spain looked brilliant in their first match, and then against Germany fell prey to the torpor that has gripped just about every team at this World Cup when being pegged back by Germany getting it launched to Niclas Füllkrug. The feeling persists they need a proper hitman, though aren’t alone in that. Luis Enrique may be the tournament’s most intense coach, with apologies to Graham Arnold and Hervé Renard, making Pep Guardiola look liked Don Carlo Ancelotti.
Japan hope they can revive the verve of that German glory. If they do, then they might pull off another of the great shocks.