Semi-final preview: China PR plotting to surprise Japan
Amman: Head coach Siggi Eyjolfsson believes his China PR side are more than capable of springing a surprise when they face Japan in the semi-finals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2018 on Tuesday.
Having guided the Steel Roses to pole position in Group A – as well as a ticket to next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup – the Icelandic tactician and the eight-time Asian champions are now braced for the eagerly anticipated showdown with their regional rivals and defending champions.
Despite the team’s illustrious past and the excellent form China displayed whilst racking up three successive group stage victories, the 1999 World Cup runners-up, by their own admission, enter the game as underdogs. Not that Eyjolfsson is overly concerned.
“Of course, we have a chance against Japan,” he declared.
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“Our focus is absolutely on the next match even though we are probably seen as the underdogs for the game and we know that most people will expect Japan to beat us and to go through.
“But we firmly believe we have a chance and hopefully we can show exactly that on Tuesday.
“We are happy to be at this stage of the competition and to be playing Japan who are a strong team and who, not long ago, were world champions.
“My side has a great deal of respect for them, but we know we have a chance and that we must now focus on our strengths and try to minimise the strengths that Japan have.”
China scored 15 times and conceded just once during their Group A campaign, but with Japan looming large on the horizon, Eyjolfsson is adamant that wins against Thailand, the Philippines and host nation Jordan count for very little ahead of the last four encounter.
“We have played well in the tournament so far, but we need to play really well against Japan to get a win,” said the former coach of the Jiangsu Suning women’s team.
“The games we have played so far do not matter much now, we just have to focus on the upcoming match. I never worry about any opponent we face, be they weaker or stronger than us. We have the utmost respect for every team we play.
“We did not choose who we would be playing in the group stage. Japan are just our next opponents, and we must do our very best to beat them.”
Meanwhile, opposite number Asako Takakura feels her side’s relatively difficult path to the semi-finals – which they only reached after drawing 1-1 with Australia on Matchday Three – should stand her squad in good stead against China.
“Our group stage was very tough,” said Takakura.
“All the players had to perform at a really high intensity, but I believe they have been helped by the fact that the games were so difficult.
“The group stage matches we had could actually have gone either way, but having said that, the players have grown because of these experiences, and we are now looking forward to the match against China.
“Our aim is to defend our title; my team is developing and I am delighted to be playing China who have been one of Asia’s best teams for many years.”
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