A mix of youth and experience saw Croatia go unbeaten in the group stage and finish second in Group F. Goalless draws with Morocco and Belgium sandwiched an emphatic victory over Canada.
A team which many doubted coming into this tournament has a favourable round of 16 matchup after a chaotic final round of Group E fixtures.
Japan did it the hard way in the first round.
After beating Germany, the Samurai Blue looked to have blown their chance of qualification by losing to Costa Rica, but they delivered another epic performance on Thursday to beat Spain and claim top spot in the section.
To Qualify: Japan
Croatia were not particularly impressive in the group stage aside from their win over Canada.
They rode their luck to hold onto a draw with Belgium, and for all the talent in their midfield, they can be overrun.
Japan are comfortable with underdog status, having toppled Spain and Germany. Their direct, electric attacking play is hard to stop, and they have the personnel to overpower the Croatians in the middle third.
More than happy to absorb pressure, this is a good price on Japan to continue their dream World Cup campaign.
Total Goals: Under 2.5
Japan’s group matches were open, and Croatia’s fixtures had more chances than the goal totals suggested. Still, knockout football tends to be relatively cautious.
Croatia had a lot of goals in their matches on their run to the final four years ago, but this is a different team lacking some cutting edge.
Last Goalscorer: Ritsu Dōan
A match changer off the bench for Japan, Ritsu Dōan has two goals in the competition already.
Dōan is yet to be the last goalscorer, having scored the penultimate goal against Germany and Spain, but if he is in a substitute again, he has a good shot at being the last goalscorer.
Either with Croatia chasing the game or with legs tiring in extra time, Dōan will have space to exploit late on.
There’s definitely value at this price.
All odds are subject to change