Morata starts for much-changed Spain in Japan World Cup match

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Alvaro Morata (R) celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with Yeremy Pino during the World Cup Group E match between Japan and Spain at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Thursday. AFP

Alvaro Morata leads the line for a much-changed Spain against Japan as they look to seal qualification to the World Cup last 16.

A point is enough to sent 2010 champions La Roja through, while a victory would guarantee them top spot.

Luis Enrique starts with Morata in place of Marco Asensio up front, after the striker netted against both Germany and Costa Rica as a substitute.

Spain also brought Barcelona’s teen left-back Alejandro Balde in for his full international debut, while winger Nico Williams also starts, with Jordi Alba and Ferran Torres dropping out.

Right-back Cesar Azpilicueta returns in place of Dani Carvajal, while Pau Torres plays at centre-back instead of Aymeric Laporte.

Japan, who likely need to win to progress, also make five changes from the team that lost 1-0 to Costa Rica.

Forwards Junya Ito and Takefusa Kubo, striker Daizen Maeda and midfielder Ao Tanaka all return to the line-up after starting the last game on the bench, while Shogo Taniguchi replaces Miki Yamane at right-back.

Influential midfielder Wataru Endo misses out through injury.

Starting line-ups:

Japan (4-2-3-1)

Shuichi Gonda; Shogo Taniguchi, Kou Itakura, Maya Yoshida (capt), Yuto Nagatomo; Ao Tanaka, Hidemasa Morita; Takefusa Kubo, Daichi Kamada, Junya Ito; Daizen Maeda

Coach: Hajime Moriyasu (JPN)

Spain (4-3-3)

Unai Simon; Cesar Azpilicueta, Rodri Hernandez, Pau Torres, Alejandro Balde; Gavi, Sergio Busquets (capt), Pedri; Nico Williams, Alvaro Morata, Dani Olmo

Coach: Luis Enrique (ESP)

Referee: Victor Gomes (RSA)

Agence France-Presse



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