DOHA: 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.

Spain and Japan made better starts than most at the World Cup but fans of both will approach their final Group ‘E’ with their calculators out, still uncertain whether their teams will be staying on in Qatar after Thursday.

A draw at Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday would ensure Luis Enrique’s team of a spot in the last 16, while a win would secure top spot in the group.

A draw could also get the Samurai Blue into the last 16 for the fourth time in the last seven World Cups but Germany could pip them even then if they beat Los Ticos and score enough goals.

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.”

Another early exit for four-times champions Germany might suit Spain very well, but Spain coach Enrique has committed his team to go all out for victory.

“We will not speculate,” he said after the Germany draw. “We will use our full strength and go for the win to secure the top in the group standings.”

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2022

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