Japan 2-1 Croatia: What's your prediction?
Croatia have performed wonders to punch above their weight for so long in international football and are determined to keep their reputation going against Japan in their last-16 match at the World Cup on Monday, coach Zlatko Dalic said.
"The population of Croatia is 4 million and the results we have achieved on the world stage are miraculous," said Dalic, whose nation were runners-up at the last World Cup and are unbeaten in three games in Qatar.
"We are continually present in tournaments and World Cups, and that itself is a great success. We have become a world football force."
Japan will invoke the spirit of the Samurai warrior in their clash with Croatia on Monday as they look to banish the memory of their exit from the last World Cup and reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
The heartbreaking defeat by Belgium in the last 16 four years ago, when they gave up a 2-0 lead and lost to a stoppage-time goal, still haunts Japan and veteran defender Yuto Nagatomo said they were desperate for redemption.
"But I think we have grown mentally as well as physically and as far as I can see, this team is the best and the strongest that has ever competed for Japan at the World Cup.
"So tomorrow, we intend to beat Croatia and enjoy a new landscape and I am looking forward to shouting 'Bravo!'."
With lightning-quick counter-attacks and a host of super subs on the bench, Japan may have another shock up their sleeves. But they would have a hard time breaking through a dogged Croatia defence.
09:00 pm, 5th December, Monday
Al-Janoub Stadium, Al-Wakrah, Qatar
Japan: (3-4-3) Gonda (GK) Tomiyasu, Taniguchi, Yoshida, Ito, Morita, Tanaka, Nagatomo, Kubo, Maeda, Kamada
Croatia: (4-3-3) Livakovic (GK), Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Barisic; Kovacic, Brozovic, Modric; Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic
* 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 when they were beaten 4-2. They finished runners-up in Group F in Qatar with five points from their three games.
* Japan were winners of Group E with six points from a possible nine, having beaten Spain and Germany but surprisingly lost to Costa Rica. They have never been past the last 16 of World Cup after falling at this hurdle in 2002, 2010 and 2018.
* Croatia have never lost in the last 16. They beat Romania 1-0 in 1998 and Denmark on penalties after a 1-1 draw four years ago in their two previous visits to this stage of the tournament.
* Japan will be without centre-back Kou Itakura, who is suspended having picked up two yellow cards in the group stage. He is one of three players who has featured in every minute of the campaign so far for them.
* Japan have played Croatia three times since 1997, two of those at the World Cup. The Asian side won a friendly clash 4-3 in their first meeting, but Croatia claimed a 1-0 group stage success at the 1998 World Cup when Davor Suker scored the only goal. They also played to a 0-0 draw in the first round at the 2006 tournament in Germany.