Japan and Croatia will today battle it out for a place in the World Cup last 16. Is there any value in the betting? Read on to inform your predictions.
Listen to the latest World Cup 2022 Insights podcast
Host Gareth Wheeler is joined once more by Jake Osgathorpe, Andrew Beasley and Simon Edwards to review the World Soccer Cup 2022 Group Stage and look ahead to the last 16 ties.
Experience could prove crucial for Croatia
Japan caused one of the big surprises of the group stage by topping Group E, knocking out Germany in the process.
Their reward is a round of 16 tie against the beaten finalists from four years ago, Croatia, who finished second in Group F having won one and drawn two of their three matches.
The Europeans head into Monday’s 16:00 (CET) clash in Al Wakrah on an impressive run of nine straight international matches without defeat.
The recent success of Zlatko Dalić’s men has been built around a solid defensive base, with Croatia conceding just one goal in their last four matches.
They will look to dictate the pace of the game and Luka Modrić will be the key to that, as he continues to pull the strings in the middle of the pitch.
Croatia’s ability to keep the ball will make life tough for a Japan team that play a high press and try and play with pace and energy.
Even the most optimistic Japanese fan would not have predicted wins over both Germany and Spain, but they achieved that and will be full of confidence heading into this clash.
Ritsu Doan has been the star of the show so far for Japan, with the Freiburg midfielder scoring in both of those group wins, and he will be hoping to start having come off the bench against Spain.
The two sides have met on three previous occasions and it’s one win each with one draw. The last time they met was at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, with that game finishing 0-0.
Japan vs. Croatia: Team news
Japan will be forced into making at least one change, with defender Ko Itakura missing the round of 16 tie through suspension, after collecting two yellow cards during the group stage.
Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu is fully recovered from a recent injury problem and will be in contention to start on Monday.
Croatia have not made many changes during the tournament so far and Dalić is expected to stick with the same 11 men who started against Spain.
One selection dilemma for the Croatian boss is whether to stick with Marko Livaja as the central striker of a front three or whether to select Bruno Petković instead.
Japan vs. Croatia: Predictions
Japan have never made it to the quarter-finals of a World Cup, losing at the round of 16 stage in three of their last six appearances.
That next step might just be too far again for the 2019 Asian Cup runners-up, as they face a Croatia team will lots of experience and a good structure in their squad.
In what is likely to be his final World Cup, Real Madrid star Modrić has shown that he is still capable of having an impact on the biggest stage.
Andrej Kramarić has already got two goals in this competition and could prove to be the danger man in and around the Japanese penalty area.
The Hoffenheim frontman has 22 goals in 77 appearances for his country and is worth considering in the Anytime Goalscorer betting market.
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