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Japan vs Spain Odds, Picks, Prediction | World Cup Match Preview

Japan vs Spain Odds, Picks, Prediction | World Cup Match Preview article feature image
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Markus Gilliar/Getty. Pictured: Alvaro Morata.

  • Japan and Spain clash on Thursday in the World Cup.
  • Anthony Dabbundo has your match preview.
  • Read on for his best bet and prediction.

Japan vs. Spain Odds

Thursday, Dec. 1
2 p.m. ET
FOX
Japan Odds +750
Spain Odds -250
Draw +350
Over/Under 2.5 (-125 / -100)
Both Teams to Score (Yes/No) (+100 / -134)
Odds via bet365. Get up-to-the-minute World Cup odds here.

Japan wasted a golden opportunity to clinch their spot in the World Cup knockout stage when they lost to Costa Rica, but the Samurai Blue are not yet out of the picture as Group E concludes on Thursday.

Once the Japanese pulled the upset on the Germans in the first match, a win against Costa Rica would have been enough for them to clinch a knockout round spot.

They lost that match 1-0 and now need some type of result in this match if they want to advance. A loss here to Spain eliminates Japan, and a draw leaves them relying on a Costa Rica draw or a goal difference edge against Germany if the Germans beat Costa Rica.

For Spain, the calculus is pretty simple. A draw is enough to send them through, likely in first. A win would clinch the group. A loss and Spain could still advance, but the position becomes significantly more precarious.

Japan are likely to take the same approach to this match as they did against Germany. Whether or not that will be effective or not is a different story.

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Japan Need to Find Original Magic

Japan had a clear approach against Germany. They didn’t have the legs to press and attack in transition for a full 90 minutes, so they opted to sit extremely deep and try to absorb pressure in the first half. Germany went up 1-0 in the first half on a penalty, but Japan were within striking distance.

Hajime Moriyasu brought on multiple pace and power forwards to run at the German backline in transition and they immediately found joy. Japan scored twice, won the match and stunned the global soccer world.

Costa Rica presented a very different challenge, and Moriyasu bizarrely chose to rest multiple key starters. There’s nothing to lose or rest for in this matchup, so I expect to see Japan play extremely direct in transition in this match. Spain are such a dominant possession side with elite passing that it leaves Japan very vulnerable when sitting deep.

Japan didn’t defend that well against Germany. They conceded 2.3 non-penalty xG and only poor German finishing and good goalkeeping, along with some variance, saved Japan. It easily could have been 2-0 or 3-0 when Japan finally clicked their attack into gear.

Either way, Japan will have a chance to get at this Spanish backline, which showed a few cracks against the Germans in behind the high defensive line.

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Spain Face Attacking Questions

Spain had a lot of possession against the Germans in the match on Sunday, but they failed to create consistent clear scoring chances. Germany sat pretty deep and were willing to cede possession and defend deeper than Germany normally would.

This match is likely to be somewhere in between the even match with the Germans and the domination of the Costa Ricans. Spain created 3.5 xG and didn’t concede a single shot against Costa Rica, but Japan are significantly more threatening than them going forward.

One major question mark is what Luis Enrique does with his attacking group. He’s opted to start Dani Olmo, Ferran Torres and Marco Asensio as the front three in his first two matches instead of Alvaro Morata. Morata wasn’t fully fit to play as more than a substitute, but he could start on Thursday as he builds his fitness levels for the upcoming knockout round.

Enrique has also chosen to start Rodri as the second center back next to Aymeric Laporte. Even though he’s a natural defensive midfielder, he’s filled in nicely in that slot. If Japan are able to find space to run at him, or they can generate a few attacking set pieces, it’s a potential weakness for the Spanish.

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Japan vs. Spain Pick

Expecting Japan to pull off another Germany-esque performance is pretty reasonable. They could certainly create a few attacking chances and score a goal in this match, and I actually expect them to as they push more numbers forward.

But expecting Japan to pull off another result is a bridge too far. Even in the win, they lost the xG battle by a full goal and were fortunate that Germany didn’t have a better finishing day. The most likely scenario is that Spain will score 1-2 goals and force Japan to be more aggressive.

Once they do push forward, Japan will create chances but only leave themselves more exposed against the Spanish possession dominance. Spain wins, but both teams get on the board.

The Pick: Spain to win and Both Teams to Score (+210)

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