Who? Japan - Poland
Where? Volgograd Arena, Volgograd
When? June 28, 16:00 (CET local time)
Japan (Yossi Medina)
Japan couldn't wish for a better situation to be before their last match. Japan is leading group H with four points and will face Poland. At the beginning, Poland considered as the best team in the group, but for this match they will come after they already been eliminated.
All that Japan needs to do now is to win. It wouldn't be an easy task, as Japan usually fails against European opponents. In the previous seven games against team from Europe, Japan managed to win only twice. The first was in home soil against Russia and the second was against Denmark in 2010. This defeat eventually led Japan to its last World Cup round of 16 appearance.
Five players can make history for Japan in this match. If they will play, they will made their 10th World Cup appearance and will equal Hidetoshi Nakata's record for the most capped Japanese in this tournament. These players will be Eiji Kawashima, Makoto Hasebe, Yuto Nagatomo, Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda.
Japan showed its versatility during the World Cup. The games against Colombia and Senegal were two completely different matches and in both Japan had different missions. The Japanese managed to handle both the Colombian attacking style and the Senegalese mixed style. Now they will need to see how they will play against Poland.
With a lot of hope, Japan wants to do it and they can do so. If they will qualify for the next stage, it will mark another great achievement for the Japanese football.
Poland (Eden Roitfarb)
The modern Polish football team just doesn’t seem to be cut for the big tournaments. Since the 1986 World Cup, they have either been eliminated in the group stage (3 times) or haven’t even qualified (5 times). Their European Championship record has also been rather disappointing. This comes in direct contrast to their qualifying performances, who are usually attacking, impressive and inspiring. But none of these adjectives can describe their appearance vs Colombia in Kazan. The Poles lacked ideas and a backbone and were outclassed on route to a 3-0 defeat. That defeat means elimination, and the only thing left is to fight for some pride in the last match vs Japan.
Trying to explain to the Polish nation what went wrong, Robert Lewandowski said: "We fought and tried to do our best, but we couldn’t do anything more ... fighting is not enough to win World Cup matches, you also have to have quality”, perhaps hinting about the lack of service he has received from his teammates. Lewa will try to bow out from the tournament with his first ever World Cup goal, and but he is clearly disappointed with himself and his compatriots. Unsurprisingly, the future of coach Nawalka is also in doubt after the poor campaign, and he took full responsibility for the failure: “For me, this failure hurts the most, I take responsibility for it. I do not have a jumble in my head, it's sport, football”. Nawalka made some questionable decisions these World Cup. One of the bizarre one’s was to put in injured defender Kamil Glik vs Colombia down 3-0 at the 80th minute while having attacking or creative options on the bench like Arek Milik or Karol Linetty. A win vs Japan might be nice for all involved, but Poland face an uncertain future at this point.