- Japan v Croatia
- Monday, December 5, 2022, 10:00 ET
- At the Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Japan has been one of the major success stories of this World Cup so far, and now it faces Croatia with a quarter-final place at stake.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Checking out the best-rated online sportsbooks we can see that bookies are predicting a close game here. Although Croatia is the +115 favorite with bettors all three options in the match betting market are odds-against, with Japan considered narrow underdogs at +280 and the draw available at +225.
|Japan v Croatia|
World Cup Second-Round Betting Briefing
Japan was a late starter at the World Cup, making its debut in 1998. That Japanese team lost all three of its Group games in 1998, although all by only one goal, including a 2-1 defeat to eventual semi-finalists Croatia and a narrow loss to Argentina.
Since then, Japan has alternated between Group stage and Second Round exits. The latter came in 2002, 2010 and 2018. In each case, Japan made a good showing, losing by a single goal to Turkey in 2002, going out on penalties against Paraguay in 2010 and losing 3-2 to Belgium in 2018.
This time round, reaching the Round of 16 was a significant achievement, given the difficulty of Japan’s Group, but getting past Croatia and reaching the quarter-finals for the first time would be a greater feat.
Curiously, Croatia also made its World Cup debut in 1998, although for most of the history of the tournament, Croatian players had played as part of the Yugoslavia national team.
That tournament marked a spectacular arrival on the World Cup scene as Croatia reached the semi-finals, only to lose to hosts France. After that highlight, however, Croatia struggled at World Cups, going out in the Group stage in 2002, 2006 and 2014 and failing to qualify in 2010.
The slump was reversed in spectacular fashion at the 2018 tournament, when Croatia beat Argentina, Denmark, Russia and England on the way to the World Cup final, where they were once again beaten by France. The prize that awaits this time, however, is a likely quarter-final against Brazil.
Japan Faces Tough Challenge
Finishing top of a Group that also included Spain and Germany looks like a significant achievement and given the number of near misses that have filled Japan’s history at the World Cup, this Japanese team is entitled to celebrate its progress to the Round of 16.
On closer examination, however, it may not be as impressive as it first appears. The victory against Germany was well deserved, though largely a product of head coach Hashime Moriyasu exploiting a German tactical weakness at right-back during the second half.
The other two Group games were less impressive. Japan struggled to break down Costa Rica, eventually losing 1-0 and although it signed off with a 2-1 win over Spain, that victory was undoubtedly influenced by the fact that Spain manager Luis Enrique rested five players.
Croatia, on the other hand, will be at full strength and is arguably a stronger, more balanced team than Germany, so Japan faces a tough challenge in this game.
Croatia Has the Right Blend
Croatia’s head coach, Zlatko Dalic, has managed to refresh the national team impressively in the four years after its defeat at the 2018 World Cup final and seems to have the right blend.
Although the core of the 2018 team remains in place, Dalic has brought in a number of other talented and promising players and only nine of the current squad were involved in the 2018 tournament. Defensively, Croatia looks more flexible, while the midfield trio of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozavic is both the heart and the brains of the team.
Goals are a slight concern. Croatia scored four against Canada but went scoreless against Morocco and Belgium, but that midfield trio, with Ivan Perisic working the flanks remains a creative powerhouse and crucially has experience of delivering in the big games.
World Cup Second-Round Match Betting
Japan has tackled its World Cup challenges with energy, resilience, and tactical shrewdness, but this is its toughest test yet and Croatia looks well-positioned to come out on top.
Moriyasu switched to a three-man central defense against Spain and that formation proved strong enough to deliver Second Round qualification, but it could be extremely vulnerable against Croatia.
At the 2018 World Cup, Croatia turned the tables on another three-man defensive team, England, thanks to Modric and his midfield teammates, who consistently exploited the gaps where the fullbacks would be in a four-man defense. I can see Croatia repeating that trick here, and even if Japan opts for a more traditional defensive formation, Dalic’s team is stronger in every department.BetOnline