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Japan eye one more giant-killing World Cup act, this time against Spain

Japanese players tell CNA's Matthew Mohan that they have recovered from the bitter loss to Costa Rica and are now focused on their final group stage match.

Japan eye one more giant-killing World Cup act, this time against Spain

Japan produced a stunning comeback to claim a shock 2-1 win over Germany on Nov 23, 2022. (Photo: AFP/Adrian Dennis)

DOHA: It was a game that was vital to their hopes of progressing to the World Cup round of 16.

But after the Samurai Blue had done the hard work by overcoming Germany 2-1 in their tournament opener, Japan would slip up against unfancied Costa Rica.

That painful 1-0 defeat means that they will have to mount another giant-killing to move on to the next stage .

Their opponents? 2010 World Cup champions and three-time European champions Spain.

Luis Enrique's men hammered Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game before being held 1-1 by Germany. Their progression to the knockouts is still not confirmed, giving them all the incentive for maximum points against Japan.

Speaking to CNA after a training session on Monday (Nov 29), Japan players acknowledged the pain of the loss on Sunday (Nov 27), but said they have moved on.

"We've got over it ... As a team, we are completely switched on for the next game. The (day after) the (Costa Rica) game was a little bit dark but now we are all set for the new route (to progress)," said goalkeeper Daniel Schmidt, who plays in Belgium for top-tier side Sint-Truiden.

Defender Kou Itakura described the result as a "disappointing" one.

"Of course after the game, we were disappointed with the result but we are already focused on Thursday," said the 25-year-old, who joined Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach this season. 

Schmidt echoed similar sentiments.

"If you look at the game again, (Costa Rica) didn't have that many chances so it's a bit frustrating - the result," he said. "I think we deserved more. It was a hard game to accept, but nothing will change even (if) we think about it."

Spain are currently top of group E with four points, with Japan second on three. Costa Rica also have three points but have a vastly inferior goal difference, while Germany are bottom with a point.

For Japan, the task is clear - beat Spain and they are through. A draw would mean they would have to count on Costa Rica holding the Germans.

Players warm up during a training session of Japan national team in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

If Japan draw with Spain, and the Germans only beat Costa Rica by one goal, it will then come down to goal difference between Japan and Germany. And if the goal difference is level, Japan progress by virtue of their head-to-head result.

If Japan draw Spain and Costa Rica beat Germany, Hajime Moriyasu's men will be sent packing. A loss to Spain, and Japan are out of the tournament.

"That's the only way to qualify (for) the next round. So we have to be confident in ourselves and just do the same thing as the first game," said Schmidt.

"We are positive," said Itakura. "We have confidence and we're ready to play against Spain."

Both matches - Japan vs Spain and Costa Rica vs Germany - kick off on Thursday, 10pm Doha time (Friday, 3am Singapore time).

Watch all 64 matches of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ LIVE on meWATCH. Visit mewatch.sg/fifaworldcup for details.

Source: CNA/mt(ac)

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