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    Qatar 2022: Blue Samurai look to quench Red Fury as Japan take on Spain in final group game

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    Spain and Japan have never met in a competitive fixture, so 2022 will afford both countries the opportunity to start a new rival with a must-win group stage game, the matchstick that could ignite a keg of gunpowder.

    Former Arsenal forward Takuma Asano scored one of the goals of the tournament to sink Germany in Japan’s first group game, and came off the bench against Costa Rica in their second game to add some much-needed life to an otherwise dull Japanese frontline.

    Although he could not replicate his German heroics against Costa Rica, he gave another good account of himself, and, like Morata, could be in line to make his first start in the competition.

    Alvaro Morata has scored two goals from three shots on goal so far, a frankly ridiculous ratio of goals to shots. The former Real Madrid and current Atletico Madrid frontman has shown what he can bring to the team despite starting the first two group stage games from the bench, so he could finally be due a start with Spain seeking to see out qualification to the next round.

    Morata has been Spain’s top scorer at all the competitions he has gone to and could be on his way to making it three out of three with another impressive showing at the World Cup.

    There aren’t many changes expected for Japan compared to their last game against Costa Rica, but they may also still be without defender Hiroki Sakai who was injured in their opening match against Germany.

    Japan’s possible XI: Shuichi Gonda; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ko Itakura, Maya Yoshida, Yuto Nagatomo; Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita; Junya Ito, Daichi Kamada, Yuki Soma; Takuma Asano.

    Spain could be without captain Sergio Busquets, who is fighting to be fit in time for the Japan game. Even if he does, Spain have a capable replacement in Rodri, whose move back into midfield will allow one of Spain’s other center-back options to see action.

    Spain’s possible XI: Unai Simon; Dani Carvajal, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Pedri, Rodri, Gavi; Dani Olmo, Alvaro Morata, Ferran Torres.

    Spain’s possible XI: Unai Simon; Dani Carvajal, Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Pedri, Rodri, Gavi; Dani Olmo, Alvaro Morata, Ferran Torres.

    Spain have not qualified for the second round yet and will be hoping to take all three points against Japan to make this a reality. They should emerge comfortable winners against Japan.

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