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Japan vs Croatia: Japanese forward Ritsu Doan believes their bench strength could prove decisive in the last-16 encounter

The Freiburg forward is Japan's top scorer in this edition of the tournament, having scored both his goals as a substitute in the group stage wins against Germany and Spain.

File photo of Japanese forward Ritsu Doan; Credit: Twitter/@FIFAWorldCup
By Sreejith C R | Dec 5, 2022 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

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Japan are set to take on Croatia in a round of 16 fixture at Al Janoub Stadium on Monday, aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history. Japanese forward Ritsu Doan, who has been their top scorer in the tournament with two goals to his name, both as a substitute, believes their bench strength might prove to be a decisive factor in the crucial knockout match against the Checkered Ones. The Samurai Blue have been an exception in this edition of the tournament, having defeated former champions Germany and Spain to secure top spot in Group E and earn qualification to the last-16 stage. The Freiburg player played a key role in both their victories as he came off the bench to level the scores in those two matches. 

Doan took four minutes to find the net after coming on as a second half substitute against Germany and just two minutes against Spain. Three of the four goals Japan have scored in the tournament thus far have come from substitutes, which is an indication of the depth in their squad. “It’s 11 against 11 but as players we talk about us playing with 26 against 11,” Doan said on Saturday. “The rules changed to allow five substitutes and I think we should be thankful for that. We have players who can change games.”

Japan always has a Plan B

Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu has won praise for his substitutions and tactical changes in Qatar. The 54-year-old has been able to come up with Plan B and turn the match upside down. He has built a team that is so diverse and is capable of adapting to different formations and game plans according to the situations. The Asian outfit are capable of sitting back and defending deep, while they can also press higher up the pitch as seen in their two group stage wins. Doan said he had learned how to make an impact coming off the bench from his club career in Germany and the Netherlands. “I have scored a lot of goals after coming on as a sub,” said the 24-year-old. “At PSV Eindhoven I started playing more as a sub and I know how to prepare to come on.”

Read more: Japan vs Croatia: Possible Game Plan, Formation and Lineups

Croatia are a tough, dogged team: Doan

He started against Costa Rica, but didn’t have a great game and was substituted with 25 minutes remaining.  “Of course as a player I’m not happy about starting on the bench but as the manager says, we need to play with all 26 players at this tournament.” the Freiburg player continued. Croatia, who had finished runner-ups in 2018, secured second spot in Group F to qualify for the knockouts. The European outfit conceded just one goal in their last three games, while they haven’t scored in two of those matches. “My impression of them is that they’re a tough, dogged team,” he said of Croatia. “They have a lot of veteran players and they have experience of how to handle a game. If you look at the last World Cup, they got through twice on penalties and once after extra time, so they all work hard and grind out the win.”



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