Group E leaders Spain will lock horns with second-placed Japan in an intriguing 2022 World Cup contest at the Khalifa International Stadium on Thursday evening.
Both nations failed to claim maximum points in their last group game, with La Roja forced to share the spoils with Germany, while the Blue Samurai suffered defeat against Costa Rica.
After recording a shock 2-1 comeback victory against Germany in their opening Group E fixture, many tipped Japan to come away with all three points from Sunday’s clash against Costa Rica.
However, the Blue Samurai were condemned to a slender 1-0 defeat by their Central American counterparts, with Keysher Fuller scoring the decisive goal nine minutes from time to blow Group E wide open ahead of the final round of fixtures.
Hajime Moriyasu’s side remain in the hunt to progress to the last 16 for the second successive World Cup, and know that a victory against 2010 world champions Spain will see them qualify.
A draw, meanwhile, could be enough to edge them through if Costa Rica fail to beat Germany or if the latter fail to win by two or more goals, but a defeat against La Roja would knock them out of the competition.
Whether Japan, ranked 24th in the world by FIFA, can pull off another seismic shock on Thursday remains to be seen, but Moriyasu will be keen to ensure that his team put aside their most recent result and instead replicate their performance from matchday one.
Japan have never faced Spain in a competitive fixture before, Japan vs. Spain : Preview with their only previous meeting back in April 2001 when La Roja secured a narrow 1-0 friendly win.