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Preview – Group D: Japan v Scotland


Rennes: Japan head coach Asako Takakura was candid in assessing the importance of her side’s FIFA Women’s World Cup clash against Scotland, declaring it a match they must win.

A surprise 0-0 draw against tournament minnows Argentina was far from the start the Asian champions had hoped for in France and the result will have even more damaging consequences should they fail to beat a Scotland side participating in their first World Cup.

With world number three England lying in wait in Japan’s final group stage match, Takakura agreed that three points, and nothing less, will do at Roazhon Park on Friday.

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“Yes of course,” she declared. “We must win, and every Japanese player understands this.”

Japan enjoyed a habitual dominance of possession against Argentina on Monday – completing nearly 600 passes at Parc des Princes – but managed just three shots on target in an uncharacteristically blunt attacking display.

Despite their day to forget, Takakura has an unshaken belief in the ability of her players and the AFC Female Coach of the Year backed her side to rediscover their sharpness in the final third.

“Of course, I cannot reveal how we’re planning to attack, but what I can say is that all the Japanese players have their own strengths and characteristics,” she explained.

“We have shared what we’d like to achieve as a whole, but apart from that, as long as they can express their aspirations and ideas as individuals, I think they’re going to try and come forward and score.

“As opposed to the Argentina match, we just didn’t manage to make the corrections. It is about adjusting within the match when we encounter difficulties.

“We have to bide our time and the players have to be patient and persevere.”

Few would have expected Japan’s second fixture of the tournament to be one of such high stakes, but Takakura knows it remains a competition of endless possibilities for her side should they bounce back on Friday.

Takakura stressed the significance of retaining a level of optimism.

“In the first match, we put everything into it and unfortunately we only got one point because it was a draw,” she explained.

“That said, the players were somewhat disappointed, but they changed their mindset quickly to look forward to the second match to come up with good ideas to connect well and score, and we’ve discussed it during practice.

“The tournament started not long ago and we’re still in the early stages, so it’s so important for us to keep the excitement and a psyched-up mood.”

Nadeshiko striker Yuika Sugasawa (pictured above) revealed her annoyance at her side’s inability to break down Argentina but insisted there was little point in looking back.

“I’m very frustrated but we have to get over it go forward,” she said,

“I’m not the kind of person who tells other players off, but I try to communicate with other players on the pitch. We’d like to express our resolution to win the next game on the pitch, and if I can convey my resolution to the younger players and if that communication is successful, we can have a good result tomorrow.”

 

Scotland may be tournament debutants, but they are a side packed with experience with some of the top clubs in England and beyond, including Kim Little, who has netted 53 international goals and won Player of the Year awards on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Scots impressed many with their fighting 2-1 defeat to a highly-fancied Englandon Matchday One, but their situation is not all that different from Japan, with a win against the 2011 world champions potentially crucial to their hopes of reaching the Round of 16.

Many observers believe Japan’s draw with Argentina opens the door for Shelly Kerr’s side, but it’s not a view which is necessarily shared by the Scotland boss.

“It probably makes our job a little more difficult,” she said. “Because the dynamic changes for Japan after getting a point.

“I think there was a perception, externally, an expectation that Japan was going to win but for us, we know how good Japan are. We are still in for a tough, tough game,

"They have some exceptional players - and we have to be mindful of that - but certainly, it doesn’t change the way we approach the game, but perhaps it does for Japan.”

 

Japan v Scotland FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Group D Roazhon Park, Rennes Kick-off: 15.00 (local time)

Photos: FIFA via Getty Images

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