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Who will Japan play in Round of 16 knockout stage?

The Samurai Blue squad has advanced to the knockout stage as the winner of Group E. We break down what’s next for them in the Round of 16.

Ritsu Doan of Japan celebrates after scoring the team’s first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Japan and Spain at Khalifa International Stadium on December 01, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Japan is back in the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup. The Samurai Blue beat Spain 2-1 to win Group E. Spain will also advance after Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 but failed to score enough to move ahead of Spain in the tiebreaker.

As the Group E winner, Japan will face the second place team from Group F, which is Croatia. The Croat squad played Belgium to a scoreless draw to secure the second berth in the group. The match will take place on Monday at 10 a.m. ET at Al Janoub Stadium.

This is Japan’s fourth trip to the knockout bracket and they have never advanced out of the Round of 16. They’ll face a Croatian squad that finished in second place four years ago. In five prior World Cup appearances, Croatia has been eliminated in group play three times, and finished second and third overall in their other two appearances.

This is the fourth time these two squads have met and the third time in the World Cup. Japan won a match at the Kirin Japan Cup in 1997, Croatia won a 1998 World Cup match, and the two sides played to a draw in the 2006 World Cup.