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Why is Japan’s Ao Tanaka not starting in Round of 16 match against Croatia at FIFA World Cup?

Japan will take on Croatia in the Round of 16 match of the FIFA World Cup at the Al Janoub Stadium in Doha on Monday.

Coach Hajime Moriyasu left out Ao Tanaka, the match-winner from the win over Spain, on the bench but has brought in Ritsu Doan, who equalised against the European nation.

Tanaka started the match against Germany but the midfielder been a substitute in the other two matches for Japan so far. Moriyasu has made game-changing substitutions in the group stages with all of Japan’s goals coming from the bench. Doan has scored two, while Tanaka and Takuma Asano have a goal each.

On not starting with influential goal-scorers and his selection choices, coach Moriyasu said, “The players don’t think of themselves as starting players or substitutes and neither do I. Of course there is competition for places and we have to have some kind of hierarchy, but in general they’re all regular players.

“I don’t know if it’s quite the same but it’s like in baseball – among pitchers you have starters, relievers and closers.”

If Japan needs to be bailed out again in the second half against Croatia, Moriyasu will have plenty of cards to play with to overcome the situation.

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