Japan is one win away to securing its high-flying status

Japan could secure their spot in the Round of 16 if they beat Costa Rica, who lost 7-0 to Spain in their first game.

Who: Japan vs Costa Rica, Group E

Where: Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Doha, Qatar

When: 7pm (10pm GMT)

Japan and Costa Rica started their World Cup campaigns in contrasting ways.

The Blue Samurai came from behind to beat 2014 champions Germany 2-1 in arguably the greatest moment in the Asian nation’s football history.

Costa Rica, meanwhile, lost 7-0 to Spain. It was the joint biggest defeat in their history and their worst at the World Cup. Defeat was expected, but no beating of this nature.

These opening matches have completely changed the complexion of this tie. Japan will enter the game knowing that a win will secure qualification to the next round, while Costa Rica will play to regain pride.

In the past few World Cups, Japan has been the ‘almost team’. In 2018 they came from a tight group with Senegal, Poland and Colombia to fall 3-2 against Belgium in a round of 16 match they had led 2-0. In 2010 they reached the Round of 16 before going to Paraguay on penalties.

While their defeat of Germany sent shockwaves across the country, it’s worth noting that this calendar year saw this Japanese team beat the US, Ghana, Australia, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Costa Rica takes the “don’t fix what ain’t broke” adage way too seriously. Six of the players in the 2014 World Cup squad that reached the quarter-finals are in Qatar. Five of them started against Spain. None of them are under 30 years old and it might show on the field.

Once one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Keylor Navas looked unhappy against Spain and could do nothing to stop the attack. Navas and the rest of the Costa Rican team will have to dig deep against Japan to avoid suffering the same fate.

Navas conceded seven goals in Costa Rica’s opening game against Spain [Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP]

Form and history don’t seem to be on Costa Rica’s side; the two sides have met twice before, with Japan winning both times.

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