Poland, the seeded team in this group, are already out after two rotten displays against Senegal and Colombia.
Japan have one-and-a-half feet in the last 16 but just need to be careful. It could still go wrong for them. A defeat here and a draw between Senegal and Colombia would eliminate Japan, as would a Colombia win if Japan’s defeat is worse than Senegal’s. A point equals safety, while three gives them a great chance of topping the group
Given what we’ve seen from Poland, we’d back Japan to get some sort of result – although 19/50 for the Blue Samarai to avoid defeat is definitely short enough given the quality at Poland’s disposal if they suddenly get it together. Japan are sure to be feeling the nerves as well as they stand on the brink of the last 16.
Japan’s victory over Colombia is inevitably caveated by that early red card, but the way they twice battled back from a goal down to claim a point against a fine Senegal side points to their character.
Right now, you’d be more inclined to rely on Japan than Poland.
The sense is that a draw here is probably likelier than odds north of 2/1 suggest. Winning this group offers little tangible benefit in the next round; England or Belgium await, both of whom would be heavy favourites, and even if Japan do have a preference they play before Group G so have no way of knowing anyway.
A draw guarantees a last-16 spot – far more important to Japan than the incidentals of which eye-catchingly good side they play next – while also allows Poland to avoid the ignominy of three defeats.
If you can bare to go back to the 2014 World Cup, it’s reminiscent of England’s instantly forgettable final game against Costa Rica. Back then, a point ensured Costa Rica would top the group, while allowing England to at least leave with something – however negligible for their efforts. The game duly finished goalless.
It’s 15/2 for a goalless draw here, and it really would be no surprise for this to be one of the most forgettable matches in what has been a crazy first-round stage.
Japan certainly wouldn’t mind that, while Poland – who unlike other teams forced to play a game once eliminated would have fully expected rather than merely hoped to progress – seem unlikely to rouse themselves from their slumber. They may be unable to do so even if they desperately wanted to.
· Draw at 21/10
· Japan 0-0 Poland at 15/2