Japan vs Spain
Luis Enrique’s side will be out for blood as they look to top the group. Victory against Japan will ensure that, and you can be sure that they’ll put everything they can into this one in their bid to land a favourable round of 16 tie.
Goals, as well as goalscoring chances, haven’t been difficult to come by for a Spanish team that is full of quality. 8 goals, from 25 shots, and an xG of 4.15 across their opening 2 fixtures is evidence of the talent at their disposal in forward areas.
Yes, 7 of those goals came against a Costa Rica side who looked out of their depth, but that is the same Costa Rica team that went and beat Japan 1-0 just 4 days later.
La Furia Roja have netted in each of their last 23 fixtures. They even bagged multiple goals in 3 of their 6 Nations League games against top quality European opposition.
From a defensive standpoint, Enrique’s men often afford their opposition very few chances, and that’s also been the case at the World Cup.
Costa Rica didn’t manage a single shot against Spain. The Germans did amass an xG of 1.29 on Sunday, but the chances that Spain conceded in that one were largely down to their own making.
xGA’s of 0.70 and 0.96 P/90 in World Cup qualifying and the Nations League respectively are fairer reflections of their defensive capabilities.
As for Japan, their World Cup results have been strange to say the least.
Despite just 26% possession against Germany, Japan nicked the game 2-1 with just 4 efforts at goal. They’re xG of 1.46 was overshadowed by their xGA of 3.09, and it’s safe to say they were lucky.
Against a Spain side that managed 64% possession against Germany, Japan could be in for an even longer afternoon, and find chances even more difficult to come by.
It’s their result against Costa Rica however, that stands out. Japan mustered just 3 shots on target in a 1-0 loss to a team dismantled in embarrassing fashion by Spain. Their xG of just 0.88 makes for grim reading as they go into a game against a side of much greater quality.
Given what’s at stake, Spain will do everything they can to put qualification as group winners to bed early in this match, and I expect them to win.