Aron Wright - June 26, 2018
Japan vs Poland
World Cup Group H
Date: Thursday, 28 June 2018
Kick-Off at 15:00 UK / 16:00 CET
Venue: Volgograd Arena, Volgograd.
Can Adam Nawalka’s troops at least fix the impression in a match without any importance for them against Japan on Thursday afternoon in Volgograd?
Poland surprisingly became the first team to see an early exit from the wide-open Group H at the World Cup in Russia. They did look lifelessness in the opening fixture against Senegal, but nothing suggested a 0-3 catastrophe against the South American hopefuls Colombia in the second round.
Polish story at the World Cup is over, but the one of Japan may well last much longer than expected as they arrived to Russia as the group underdogs.
The Samurai Blue did not impress in their two opening ties either, but unlike Poland, they showed the fighting spirit which resulted in four points from two fixtures as a reward.
Akira Nishino’s side trailed to Senegal on two separate occasions on Sunday, but their mental strength got them back on level terms in a matter of minutes both times.
Takashi Inui, who earns his salary in Spanish La Liga playing for Eibar, sent a beautiful curved shot into the bottom left corner of Senegal’s goal to convert a marvellous pass from Yuto Nagatomo.
The lack of meticulousness at the back caused by a series of mistakes, primarily by the veteran goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, saw Senegal regaining the lead in the second half. Nevertheless, Nishino made a timely substitution, bringing his main star Keisuke Honda on.
The 32-year-old veteran, who now plays for Mexican Pachuca, responded tapping the ball into the net shortly after to save a point for Japan. Honda wrote Japanese history becoming their first player to score at three different World Cups.
Nishino changed nothing in the side that defeated Colombia 2-1 on the opening day.
Since Japan showed a decent display in the second clash against Senegal, there are no reasons to expect any significant changes ahead of the tie with Poland.
Keisuke Honda will likely only come on from the bench here as well after scoring his 37th international goal, drawing level with Hiromi Nara as the all-time fourth highest scorer for the national side.
Kawashima – Sakai, Yoshida, Shoji, Nagatomo – Hasebe, Shibasaki – Haraguchi, Kagawa, Inui – Osako.
Szczesny – Piszczek, Glik, Bednarek, Rybus – Krychowiak, Goralski – Blaszczykowski, Milik, Zielinski – Lewandowski.
This will only be the second ever head to head encounter between Japan and Poland.
The first one served as a preparation for the 2002 World Cup (in Korea/Japan) and it saw a 0-2 victory for Samurai Blue with goals from Hidetoshi Nakata and Naohiro Takahara.
Had the match been played in the opening round, the European outfit would have been favourites to win it.
They are by no means closer to a three-pointer under these circumstances as Japan will head into the game in much higher spirits knowing a victory would send them through to the last 16 round regardless of the outcome of the other clash in the group.
Moreover, Poland showed literally nothing in the build-up play moving forward as their stalwart striker Robert Lewandowski was nothing like the man who bagged 16 goals in qualifying, beating Cristiano Ronaldo by one in scoring charts.
We can hardly see Nawalka motivating his men to perform a sudden comeback on the final day which is why the value is nice in backing the much more motivated side to get the result here.
The more conservative punters will fancy the 1.38 odds offered for Japan not to lose, while the Japanese win is paid at the sky-high 2.60.
Nevertheless, we will also go for the BTTS option as Japan’s defensive line proved out to be super vulnerable so far in the tournament, meaning the BTTS option is well worth backing at the 1.75 odds.
Predicted Full-Time Result is a victory for Japan in what could be a high-scoring affair.