Japan will try to pull the plug on Spain’s “computer game” football in their World Cup showdown on Thursday, with the Blue Samurai eyeing their second major upset of the tournament.
Japan beat Germany in their opening game of Group E and they will book their place in the last 16 if they can add Spain to their collection of scalps.
Victory will not come easily for a Japan team who came under pressure for long periods against Germany and stumbled to a stodgy 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in their second game.
Coach Hajime Moriyasu is wary of Spain’s threat but backed his players to spring another surprise.
“Tomorrow is going to be a high-pressure game for our players but they must believe in themselves and in their team-mates,” he said Wednesday.
“It’s always an important match — that never changes. If the players can play to 100 percent of their potential, then the result will follow.”
Moriyasu called Spain a “tactically strong” team who have “dynamism as well as technique”.
Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda said Spanish players are “good at being in the right place at the right time” and warned his team-mates to have their wits about them.
“People say Spain play like a computer game because they play in such a consistent way — they have a style and a plan of attack that they stick to,” he said.
“I don’t think they’re going to change that depending on the opponent. They’ll stick to what they do.”
Both teams are likely to feature several of the players who met in the semi-finals of last year’s pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics.
Spain won that game 1-0 after extra time but Moriyasu believes his players are ready to take revenge in Qatar.
“It was very disappointing and both myself and the players are still frustrated about it,” he said.
“I think the players have developed since then and I hope we can get a result to celebrate this time.”
Japan are likely to be without influential midfielder Wataru Endo through injury, although Moriyasu said right-back Hiroki Sakai should be fit again after missing the Costa Rica game.
A win over Spain would give Japan their biggest World Cup result ever but Moriyasu insisted he was not feeling the pressure.
“The question is whether we can play our best or not — I hope we don’t have any regrets in that regard,” he said.
“We always aim to win and that will be the same again tomorrow.”
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