VOLGOGRAD: Japan coach Akira Nishino made six changes for the final Group H match against Poland on Thursday as he targets the point that will guarantee his side a place in the World Cup knockout rounds.
Nishino is wary about the fierce heat in Volgograd, with the temperature at kick-off around 37 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) and said he would choose his team based on who coped best with the cauldron-like conditions in training.
But it was a surprise to see him leave out Takashi Inui, who has been outstanding, with three goals in his past four appearances for Japan, and midfield partner Shinji Kagawa for Hotaru Yamaguchi and Takashi Usami.
Also out are defenders Gen Shoji, midfielders Makoto Hasebe, Genki Haraguchi and forward Yuya Osako.
In come Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki, who starts behind lone striker Yoshinori Muto. Also given a start are defenders Gotoku Sakai and Tomoaki Makino as they try to keep Poland’s front line, led by Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, at bay.
Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima keeps his place despite a howler for Senegal’s first goal in the 2-2 draw and will captain the side.
The already eliminated Poles made five changes as they bid to end the tournament on a high after losing 2-1 to Senegal and 3-0 to Colombia.
In come goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, defenders Kamil Glik and Artur Jedrzejczyk, and midfielders Kamil Grosicki and Rafal Kurzawa.
Starting line-ups for the World Cup Group H match between Japan and Poland at the Volgograd Arena on Thursday (1400 GMT kick-off):
Eiji Kawashima (capt), Yuto Nagatomo, Gaku Shibasaki, Shinji Okazaki, Takashi Usami, Yoshinori Muto, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Hiroki Sakai, Tomaoki Makino, Gotoku Sakai, Maya Yoshida
Coach: Akira Nishino (JPN)
Lukasz Fabianski, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Jan Bednarek, Jacek Goralski, Robert Lewandowski (capt), Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kamil Grosicki, Kamil Glik, Bartosz Bereszynski, Piotr Zielinski, Rafal Kurzawa
Coach: Adam Nawalka (POL)
Referee: Janny Sikazwe (ZAM)