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Japan vs Spain

Luis Enrique insists Spain won't risk finishing second in World Cup group to avoid Brazil knockout clash

6:08 am AEDT 1/12/22
Luis Enrique
Spain take on Japan on Thursday at World Cup 2022 and will finish as group winners with three points against the Samurai Blue.
  • Spain facing Japan
  • Can top group
  • Second spot may bring easier draw

WHAT HAPPENED? The Spain boss was asked if he'd rather finish second in Group E to avoid a potential quarter-final against Brazil. La Roja will win the group if they beat Japan and will then face Morocco, Croatia or Belgium in the last 16 before a potential clash with Brazil next. Luis Enrique has admitted he has already considered the ramifications and explained why playing for second place would be a risk.

WHAT THEY SAID: "It's a great question, because we've thought about it too," he said in a press conference. "But imagine we want to finish second, we get to the 90th minute and it's 0-0 in the two games, and in the 95th minute with 15 seconds left, Japan and Costa Rica both score. You gambled, and you're out. Or imagine Germany are 5-0 up, we're looking for a draw, and Japan score and we're out. When you're convinced that you have a very good team and you want to play seven games [to get to the final], it isn't about finishing second. We want to finish first. If we play Brazil in the quarterfinals, great, we'll play Brazil. But we won't count our chickens before they've hatched."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Brazil and Spain have looked among the strongest sides in the tournament so far after making impressive starts to the World Cup. Luis Enrique's side have hammered Costa Rica 7-0 and drawn with Germany, while Brazil have sealed wins over Serbia and Switzerland.

IN THREE PHOTOS:

DID YOU KNOW? Spain have only lost three of their last 19 games in the group stage of a World Cup tournament (W12 D4) and are unbeaten in six group matches (W3 D3) since losing against Chile in 2014.

WHAT NEXT FOR SPAIN? La Roja play Japan on Thursday and need only a point to qualify. Luis Enrique's side will finish top if they win or with a draw if Costa Rica draw or lose to Germany.