Kick-off: 1500, 05/12/2022
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium
The World Cup last-16 tie between Japan and Croatia promises to be a clash of styles at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday.
Energy and enthusiasm are the key assets of the Samurai Blue, while their opponents are more composed and have the experience of being runners-up four years ago.
We reckon this is a tough one to call and 9/4 for extra-time to be needed is our first Japan vs Croatia prediction.
The manner of Japan’s surprise success in Group E pretty much sums up the erratic nature of Qatar 2022 so far.
Hajime Moriyasu’s side enjoyed thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 wins over Germany and Spain either side of a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica.
On Thursday, La Roja had looked in total control at the break after taking the lead through Alvaro Morata’s early header.
However, following a couple of changes at half-time, the Samurai Blue produced a remarkable turnaround in the space of five minutes.
Substitute Ritsu Doan equalised with a 20-yard drive before Ao Tanaka bundled in a second goal – which VAR allowed to stand even though the ball appeared to have gone out of play during the build-up.
“We played against one of the best teams in the world and we knew before the game that this was going to be very tough and difficult,” Moriyasu said.
“The players conceded one goal, but they persisted and they persevered and tried to change the flow of the game. We played as one and I could feel the times had changed.
“There were many fans who came all the way from Japan and as well those who stayed behind in Japan, and I think our win is also owed to them.”
Japan certainly play with their hearts on their sleeves and make up for any technical deficiencies with a never-say-die attitude.
Doan, who has helped Freiburg to second place in the Bundesliga this season, can now boast a couple of crucial goals.
The 24-year-old can be backed at Japan vs Croatia odds.
Croatia arrived in Qatar in fine spirits after a run of four straight wins helped them top a Nations League pool featuring France, Denmark and Austria.
Their World Cup campaign began with a cagey goalless stalemate versus Morocco before a stylish 4-1 triumph over Canada.
Zlatko Dalic’s side just needed a draw against Belgium to advance and achieved that feat, although they were grateful for several Romelu Lukaku misses late on.
Dalic said: “I certainly expected a difficult match against a great team. Belgium cannot play three matches in a row in a very bad manner and this was a decisive match.
“But Croatia were great, especially in the first hour. We had a clear penalty, but VAR ruled against us.
“It is to be expected that a team such as Belgium would have certain chances and I must be honest and say that we were also lucky, they didn’t take their chances in the end.
“It was a great match, but very difficult match to watch, to lead and it was difficult to play, but this is football.”
Key figures like Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic remain from the team which made it all the way to the final in Russia.
Some fresh legs have been added and 20-year-old defender Josko Gvardiol looked a real find against Belgium.
Overall, the 2022 version of Croatia feels a level below that of four years ago, but they will always be hard to beat.
Let’s add 7/2 for the scores to be level at half-time and full-time to our Japan vs Croatia betting tips.
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