Japan vs Spain Prediction

1st December 2022
22:00 Qatar Time/19:00 GMT
Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

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Japan vs Spain Prediction Match Overview


Japan vs Spain sees the top two teams in group E battle it out for a place in the last 16. Japan come into the match with regrets, surprisingly losing their previous game against Costa Rica. Japan were big favourites, given their shock 2-1 victory over Germany in the first game, allied to Spain’s destruction of the Central Americans. If they had won that game, they would be through now, but as it is, they are now under pressure to beat Spain. A Japanese draw combined with a Costa Rica win or victory by two clear goals for Germany in the other match would send one of the other teams through at Japan’s expense. As such, Japan must be brave in this match and not play negatively.

Spain played against Germany in the previous match, in what could be considered the best game of the group stage so far. This is not surprising, as it is the only scheduled group-stage match between two former World Champions. The quality of football was unsurprisingly high. Spain took the lead in the second half after substitute Alvaro Morata produced a brilliant finish from a Jordi Alba cross. However, German substitute Niclas Fullkrug rifled a shot into the top corner to deny the Spaniards the three points and qualification on the night. A draw is enough for Spain to qualify, though they will want to win. Spain can also afford to lose if Costa Rica fail to win because of their vast goal difference. Therefore, Japan vs Spain is an intriguing game with many possible permutations.

Injuries and Suspensions

Might not play: Endo (Japan); Gavi, Rodri (Spain)

Will not play: Sakai, Tomiyasu (Japan)

Possible Lineups

Japan vs Spain Prediction Analysis

Possible Formations

Japan may well play a back three. Wataru Endo is questionable but will likely make it. Spain coach Luis Enrique will probably rest Sergio Busquets as he is a suspension risk for a possible round of 16 tie. Carlos Soler might come in. Gavi is questionable, as stated. Hence, Koke might come in for him. Alternatively, Enrique could move Rodri from defence to his natural defensive midfield position and bring in a centre-back such as Eric Garica or Pau Torres.

The Midfield Area

The midfield will likely be keenly contested in the Japan vs Spain match. Spain’s midfield prowess is widely known, though they may be slightly weaker without Gavi and Busquets. Japan have plenty of talented midfielders, but we expect Spain to control the ball as they have in their opening two games and as only they can do. This situation will suit Japan as the Japanese seem to be better in transition and counter-attack. Indeed, they shockingly defeated Germany in their opening game through fast counters. Alternatively, Costa Rica played very defensively against them, and the Asians could not break down the Central Americans. Costa Rica nicked the win late on, so Japan will hope they can do something similar to Spain as Costa Rica did to them.

As stated, Japan likely have to win, so they will have to be adventurous at some point. The Spanish are masters of evading the press, but the Japanese must be brave and try to counter-press. When they lose the ball, they must recover it quickly to disturb the Spaniards’ rhythm. Spain are fantastic at pulling teams out of shape and position, then speeding up the play when they find a vacated area to exploit. Endo, Ao Tanaka, and Daichi Kamada must also cover the gaps. Japan must be organised well as we expect Spain to dominate possession.


The wide areas will also be integral to determining the result of Japan vs Spain. Japan have a host of fast, tricky, inventive wingers. When they can catch Spain out and transition from defence to attack, Japan must utilise these players. Kamada might play from a wider position in the 3-4-3 shape, though he will also come infield. He is responsible for receiving the ball on transitions and driving forward. On the right-hand side, Junya Ito has the dribbling skills to get at Jordi Alba and come inside to shoot or create for Takuma Asano. Japan will undoubtedly have to make the most of these situations where they can catch Spain off-guard. They will also need Yuto Nagatomo and Miki Yamane to get up and down the pitch. They must support in attack and be solid defensively against the Spanish full-backs and wingers.

Spain have tricky wingers, too, in Dani Olmo and Ferran Torres. Both are intelligent players who can attack recycle play or attack the Japanese wing-backs, dependent on what best suits the situation. They will use their discretion. Alvaro Morata might come in up front as a more conventional number 9, but also drop a little deeper to link the play. If Olmo and Torres stay wide, it will create more space between the lines for the midfielders and Morata to operate. Spain are a very fluid team and interchange positions, and their cleverness will be vital to breaking down a stubborn Japanese rearguard.

Japan Must Win

Germany will likely beat Costa Rica reasonably comfortably, so Japan will probably have to win this game to advance. It is a tall order for them to beat Spain. They know chances will be at a premium, so it is vital that they are defensively resolute and take any opportunities which come their way. They cannot be as wasteful as they were against Costa Rica. They could try to play very expansively and take the game to Spain, but we would be surprised if that transpires. They will more likely hope to perform a smash-and-grab on Spain, soaking up pressure and relying on their forwards to score when they get the chance. They can bring on the likes of Kaoru Mitoma, Takumi Minamino, and Ritsu Doan if needing a goal or two.

Japan Key Players

Wataru Endo

There is a chance that Endo might miss Japan vs Spain through injury, but if he is fit, he will be essential to the Japanese game plan. As an energetic and nippy midfielder, he will be expected to help organise the Japanese midfield and use his stamina to initiate the midfield press. He and Tanaka must link well with Kamada when Japan have the ball. Keeping the ball as often as possible to conserve energy and relieve the pressure is as crucial as recovering it when they lose it. He can also cover Nagatomo and Yamane when they drive forward.

Junya Ito

If Ito plays he is undoubtedly a threat to the Spaniards in behind. Ito must use his pace, dribbling, and creative powers to give the Spanish left-back a difficult time. As stated, the counter-attack is likely to be Japan’s primary weapon in this match. Therefore, Ito, alongside Kamada, must ensure they he carries the ball forward at pace when Spain are caught and left overexposed. Ito can shoot himself or play cute, clever balls for Asano. Japan have a host of wingers they can play, so if he starts, Ito knows he must be on his game to remain on the pitch.

Spain Key Players


With clubmates Gavi and Sergio Busquets likely rested, Pedri becomes even more critical than ever in this match. His ability to recycle the play, find little pockets of space and get into the final third will be essential for Spain. He has also proved he can find the wingers and Morata with inventive and clever passes. Pedri really is the heartbeat of this team and will likely control the game and starve Japan of possession. His ability to evade the press can take advantage of changes in the Japanese shape. His passing can unlock doors and will be imperative against what will likely be a stubborn and disciplined Japanese side defensively.

Alvaro Morata

Morata played very well when he came on against Germany. He scored the goal but also gave Spain a threat with his runs in behind. As the only natural centre-forward in the squad, Morata offers the Iberians something different. He is not just a runner, though; his touch and clever passing will also be on display if he starts against Japan. A conscientious player, Morata is often criticised, but he makes Spain a better team when he is on form. Therefore, we expect him to play and get chances, and Shuichi Gonda, in the Japanese goal, must play well to keep him out.

Japan vs Spain Prediction


Perhaps we have done Japan a disservice here in claiming they will be stubborn and look to hit Spain on the break and nick the win. Truthfully, Japan are a better team than simply holding on for dear life. However, we do expect our assessment to be accurate to an extent. On some occasions in Japan vs Spain, the Asians will be disciplined and maintain their shape. However, knowing they must win, they will also be expansive at other times and look to transition quickly and with a threat. It is unlikely Spain will be knocked out. Indeed, that would require a loss to Japan, plus a Costa Rica win or a vast German win in the other game. Therefore, we expect Spain to play relatively free of pressure, which is bad news for Japan. We think Japan will perform valiantly and give it a good shot. Ultimately, we believe Spain’s superior quality in midfield and attacking areas will determine the result and Japan will be eliminated. They shot themselves in the foot against Costa Rica.

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