Japan vs Croatia predictions: Vatreni can make big-game experience count
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Aaron Ashley
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Zlatko Dalic will be confident Croatia can negotiate their way past Japan with his side now unbeaten in nine games
Zlatko Dalic will be confident Croatia can negotiate their way past Japan with his side now unbeaten in nine games

- Croatia have only lost two of their last 22 competitive games 
- Croatia are unbeaten in nine, keeping five clean sheets in that run 
- Recommended bet: Back Croatia to win

Not once but twice Japan have come from behind to stun an European heavyweight in this World Cup, but the Samurai Blue’s giant-killing heroics may come to an end in the last-16 against Croatia.

Despite losing 1-0 to Costa Rica, the Japanese finished top of Group E after recording surprise successes over Germany and Spain, and they will be hoping to add World Cup 2018 finalists Croatia to their hit list.

However, Group F runners-up Croatia remain unbeaten in Qatar after draws with Morocco and Belgium, as well as victory over Canada, and they have their eyes set on going one better than they managed in Russia four years ago.

Team news

Ao Tanaka, Takefusa Kubo and Daizen Maeda all returned to the side for Japan's win over Spain and should feature again.

Shogo Taniguchi may get the nod over Miki Yamane at right-back while super-sub Ristu Doan, who has scored two goals from the bench, is pushing for a start. 

The big blow, however, is that Ko Itakura is suspended.

For Croatia, there are currently no fresh injury concerns, with manager Zlatko Dalic reporting a clean bill of health.

The stats

Hajime Moriyasu has to manage Japan's defence without the suspended Ko Itakura
Hajime Moriyasu has to manage Japan's defence without the suspended Ko Itakura

Croatia are undefeated in nine of their last 10 World Cup matches, their only loss in that run coming in the 2018 final against France.

After group-stage draws with Belgium and Morocco and victory over Canada, Croatia are now unbeaten in nine. 

They have kept five clean sheets in that run, which has also featured Nations League wins over Denmark and France.

Japan are without a clean sheet in eight games at the World Cup Finals.

Japan have conceded the first goal in all three of their World Cup matches in Qatar.

There have been two or fewer goals scored in six of Croatia’s last nine matches.

Prediction

The comebacks from Japan have been one of the stories of this year’s World Cup and the Samurai Blue certainly cannot be underestimated after the character they have displayed in beating both Germany and Spain.

But Japan have not made it past the round of 16 in a World Cup in six previous attempts and the experience of 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia must count for plenty.

Even though Japan beat Germany and Spain, those two European heavyweights were punished for not taking their chances, while Japan were clinical in what were virtually frantic five-minute spells.

Both Germany and Spain dominated possession and created more chances than Japan, who were also beaten 1-0 by Costa Rica, so perhaps they have had a fortuitous tournament so far.

Croatia opened their campaign with a goalless draw against Morocco before beating Canada 4-1 and then sealing their progress with another 0-0 stalemate with Belgium.

Those results mean they have now lost only two of their last 22 competitive games and their current nine-game unbeaten run also features two wins over Denmark and four points against France.

With a midfield three of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic, Croatia have the edge and that could ultimately prove the difference in what promises to be a tight contest.

Centre-back Josko Gvardiol is a rising star and has helped made Croatia defensively strong, having conceded only four goals in their last nine games.

Croatia are a team for the big occasion while Japan have to show they can do it again. 

Take the Blazers to progress in 90 minutes, which is available at 21/20 via LiveScore Bet.

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