We're hunting a fourth consecutive winner, and Kev's backing Japan to stride towards the last 16...
Costa Rica thrashed 7-0 in first game
Japan on a high after Germany win
Japan subs Asano and Doan sparkled in WC opener
Japan v Costa Rica
Sunday 27 November, 10:00
Live on ITV1
He took his sweet time about it, but Robert Lewandowski finally grabbed his first ever goal at the World Cup finals, and in doing so he wrapped up a vital 2-0 win for Poland against Saudi Arabia yesterday. We're now back pretty much level for the week, and we have the chance to finish our stint in style.
Japan caught the world's imagination when they came from behind to beat Germany 2-1 in their opening group game, and another victory against Costa Rica might be enough to see them qualify with a game to spare, which would be a truly extraordinary achievement. Although the Blue Samurai were outplayed for the first hour against Hansi Flick's side, they hung in there, and Bundesliga-based attackers Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano turned the tide with well-taken goals.
Japan are now in a totally different position, as they are favourites for this clash with a Costa Rica side that was quite frankly humiliated in a 7-0 defeat to Spain. The Ticos put very little pressure on the ball and played a ragged defensive line, and their complete lack of intensity was hard to understand. It's worth remembering that they barely qualified for the finals with a narrow playoff win over New Zealand, but I was surprised by how poorly they defended against Spain. Keylor Navas, an elite goalkeeper, was peppered with shots.
Japan have the speed and quality in attack to cause Costa Rica a number of problems, and matchwinner Asano could start. In defence, Hiroki Sakai could make way for Arsenal's Takehiro Tomiyasu. Costa Rica have no fresh injury concerns.
I'll back Japan to win and Over 1.5 Goals here on the Sportsbook at 1.84/5. I can't see Costa Rica being able to contain such an energetic and confident attack, and if Japan take an early lead, Costa Rica will have to come out, and I think they'll be shredded in transition.