15 October 2019
The two top teams in 2020 FIFA World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) Group F will come face-to-face this week, with Japan traveling to Dushanbe to take on Tajikistan at the Pamir Stadium.
After a narrow 1-0 home triumph over Kyrgyzstan in their WCQ curtain-raiser, the hosts have pulled off another single-goal margin victory, beating Mongolia 1-0 on the road. As a result, they’ve gone from two consecutive 1-0 defeats to two wins by the same scoreline. The Crowns have won half of their eight outings since the turn of the year (W4, D1, L3), with six of those results (win/loss) seeing the winning side keep a clean sheet. Notably, none of Tajikistan’s last seven home matches has featured over 2.5 goals (W2, D3, L2), while just one witnessed both teams score. Therefore, scoring first could be crucial because four of five games in that period that attended at least one goal saw the winner break the deadlock.
The visitors are heavy favorites to stretch their winning run against Tajikistan to three straight games (8-0 H, 4-0 A), especially for the way they’ve kicked off this qualifying campaign. Rampant Japan have netted a total of eight goals and prevented their opponents from scoring in two wins from as many outings in Group F to claim the top spot. Additionally, Hajime Moriyasu’s men have avoided defeat in eight of their last nine matches, with a 4-0 demolition to Uruguay in the 2019 Copa America being the only exception (W5, D3, L1). Impressively, each of these five triumphs has been accompanied by a clean sheet, with over half of them (3) ending with the identical 2-0 scoreline.
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