WWC Quarter Final: Japan

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Without setting the tournament on fire, Japan has gone clinically undefeated. Now they take on the might of the Matildas in the perfect Asian Cup Final rematch.

The story so far

Japan’s campaign has been solid if not spectacular but four wins from as many attempts is not to be gawked at even if they were fairly sedate affairs. Of interest is the fact that each of Japan’s wins has been by no more than a solitary goal, even though they were against teams considered significantly inferior to the Asian and world champions. The lack of attacking finesse they have shown so far was at its most prominent against the hopeless Ecuadorians where 20-odd shots yielded just one goal. To put that in to perspective, in Ecuador’s preceding game they conceded nine in one half.

Even though the highlights reel won’t be the longest of the teams remaining, Japan’s tournament has still been good and by not dropping a point and conceding only two goals they have proved they are still very much a team to be reckoned with. They simply haven’t set the World Cup on fire yet.

They’ll beat Australia because…

At the risk of sounding entirely unpatriotic, Japan should beat Australia because it’s a more skilful and precise side that graces the astro-turf of Canada. They had the number over the Aussies in their most recent high-profile clash; the Asian Cup Final in Vietnam last year where the Japanese found themselves on the right side of a 1-0 score board. Add into the mix the fact that Japan are the current world champions and it’s a cocktail for a good results against an Australian side that should provide their greatest challenge  in the tournament thus far.

They’ll be knocked out by Australia because…

The Matildas have shown the world just how good they are and Australia’s will to succeed will be amplified against their continental foe. Australia’s attacking, end-to-end football has caught opposition teams off guard throughout the entire competition and with a great deal of momentum behind them the Japanese will have their work cut out. Furthermore, the Australian skill level has been phenomenal throughout and while they probably aren’t as clean-cut as the Japanese, they have developed a good mix of skill, aggression and intent which has allowed them to come thus far. It’s been fearless football and the world has fallen in love with it. It’ll certainly cause problems for this Japanese outfit.

Will they win the World Cup?

They did exactly that four years ago and there’s every chance they’ll do it again but a confident Australian side is just the next step in a challenging run to the cup. The winner of this fixture will take on either host nation Canada or the English – both teams that are coming into form at right time – in the semi-final, and the first semi has already been booked out by Germany and the USA, both of whom are high flyers in the world of women’s football.

Best moment of the tournament so far

This might sound a bit nasty but the draw has been the best thing about this campaign for the Japanese. Four debutant opponents in four games will have pleased Mr. Sasaki to no end and the results, whilst not dominative, have reflected this. No more of that though, they’ll need to produce their own highlights from this point on.

Key Player

Aya Miyama, the Japanese captain, has been integral to her side’s success for years and especially in this tournament. Her architecture of goals was evident in the Round of 16 clash against the Netherlands and if she can dominate on the left and in the middle against the Matildas, Japan will be a step closer to the semi-finals. If she’s allowed to dominate, the Australians will be in trouble but don’t expect the Matildas to allow that to happen.

Injuries and suspensions

None and none.

Prediction

I’d lose my job if I said anything to the contrary so the Matildas by two goals to none. Predicting Lisa de Vanna to dominate with sheer strength and Katrina Gorry to enter the semis on the back of a brace!

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