World Cup: Confident Japan, Senegal in crunch tie (Preview)

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Yekaterinburg (Russia), June 23 (IANS) Riding on confidence after victories in their respective opening fixtures, Japan and Senegal will lock horns in their second Group H encounter of the FIFA World Cup 2018 at the Ekaterinburg Arena here on Sunday.

A win on Sunday will virtually seal a pre-quarterfinal berth for the winner.

Japan on Tuesday became the first ever Asian nation to beat South American opposition at a World Cup when they pipped Colombia 2-1.

The Asian giants’ win against Colombia was one of the biggest surprise of the ongoing mega event and the Akira Nishino-coached side will be eager to dish out yet another spirited show.

Japan midfielder Genki Haraguchi said his side will focus on strengthening their defence on Sunday, which will also enhance their attacking ability.

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“We had to start by building the base, which is defence,” Haraguchi was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

“But with that base in place, our ability to attack and respond to different situations is increasing,” he added.

Meanwhile, Japan skipper Makoto Hasebe felt that despite a major win, his side has to be grounded as Senegal will be a completely different story.

“We must keep our feet on the ground, we have to take into account that we played against 10 men for almost 90 minutes,” Hasebe said, referring to Carlos Sanchez’s dismissal which gave Japan the advantage against Colombia.

Senegal on the other hand, too came out with an impressive all-round show against Poland, beating them 2-1.

The Africans will be looking to continue the momentum from that unexpected victory into their next game.

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Most of the Senegal players feature in different Europen clubs and with plenty of experience, they could make life tough for Japan.

After scoring his first international goal, which proved to be a decisive second for Senegal against Poland, M’Baye Niang said that the story is still not over as they have a lot more to achieve.

“My benefit, of which you speak, is the work of a whole group,” Niang said.

“We must not give up and we must continue to work. Nothing is yet acquired, we must continue to work to achieve our goal,” he added.

Come Sunday, Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse would likely set a 4-4-2 formation once again and no major changes are expected in the starting XI.

–IANS

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