After beating Germany in the team’s opening game, Japan advanced to the last 16 of the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Spain on Thursday – the same margin by which they overtook the four-time world champions.
Japan scored twice early in the second half, coming from behind and defeating another European powerhouse to reach the knockout rounds for their second straight World Cup.
This is the first time Japan have progressed beyond the group stage in consecutive tournaments.
“For Asia and Japan, our wins over Spain and Germany, two of the best teams in the world, is something that gives us great confidence and we are very happy,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu. “Of course we still have many things to learn, but Asia can win on the world stage, Japan can win on the world stage.”
Japan has been beaten in the last 16 of the World Cup in the 2002, 2010 and 2018 editions of the tournament. But Maya Yoshida is determined to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in her history by defeating Croatia. “It will be a new chapter in Japanese history, so we have to focus on one more game,” said the Schalke centre-back.
“We knew that it would be really difficult when Germany and Spain play each other. We knew we had to win, but that’s the way it is at the World Cup, where anything is possible, anything can be.
“I’m really excited about the great comeback mentality as a team and I’m very happy about that. But our goal is still to win the next game.”
There was debate as to whether the ball went wide before Kaoru Mitoma crossed for Tanaka’s goal and Yoshida admits he prayed during a lengthy VAR review that the goal would stand.
“It was so long ago. Mama Mia! It’s been such a long time,” he said. “I prayed the whole time and after that we focused on what we needed next. We looked at the clock and it was still so long.”
When is the game?
The game will take place on Monday, December 5th.
When is kick-off?
The game will kick off at 15:00 (GMT), 18:00 local time at Al-Janoub Stadium.
What TV channel is it on?
The game will be shown on either the BBC or ITV. Telegraph Sport will also be running a live blog on the game – you can bookmark this page now and come back on Monday for our coverage.
How has Japan fared so far?
Japan celebrated two notable victories at the top of Group E in the group stage: against four-time champions Germany and 2010 winners Spain.
They have shown their history of killing giants and bounced back from falling 1-0 against both sides, although the game against Spain was not without controversy as the ball seemed to go out of play for the final cross for Japan’s winners.
Despite those two monumental victories, Japan somehow smothered tournament underdogs Costa Rica, losing 1-0 to the side beaten 7-0 by Spain on day four of the tournament.
How has Croatia progressed?
Unbeaten in the tournament so far – and scoring just one goal – Croatia finished second in Group F after goalless draws against Morocco and Croatia and a convincing 4-1 win over Canada.
Morocco cemented the tournament’s dark horse status after defeating both Belgium and Canada to take first place.