EDMONTON (Reuters) - After some tough physical battles en route to the last eight of the Women’s World Cup, Australia will face a very different challenge against defending champions Japan in Saturday’s quarter-final.
But while Japan’s impressive short-passing and quick movement game is in contrast to the more direct teams the Matildas have faced so far, the Japanese are familiar foes.
The two teams compete in the same regional competitions and met twice in last year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup where Japan beat Australia 1-0 in the final after they drew 2-2 in group play.
“We know how they play and we know how to match up against them, we just have to adjust our game plan a little bit and be really switched on,” Australian defender Steph Catley told reporters on Thursday.
“They are such smart players and really technical on the ball, so we will definitely be looking at them carefully but we know how they play and so we will be ready for that.”
Australia’s record against Japan isn’t great however - they have won two of the last 10 meetings and their most recent victory was five years ago.
Catley says the Aussies will have to be particular careful in dead-ball situations.
“They are extremely dangerous off set-pieces, the goal they got against us at the Asian Cup was off a set-piece, so we will be looking at that,” said Catley.
“But they are just quality all over the field. We have got to look at the video carefully to make sure we have got everything covered.”
Having escaped from a tough Group D featuring the United States, Sweden and Nigeria, Australia then pulled off something of a surprise by beating Brazil in the second round.
Catley believes the tough route to the last eight in Canada has only helped the team.
“Knowing we can face anyone in the world has helped us a lot,” said Catley. “Considering that we have come out of so many dogfights, we have had massive games in every contest, everyone’s body is feeling really good.”
The success against Brazil has sparked a wave of interest in the team at home and Catley says that will just add to their motivation.
“We thrive on the support from home and there is nothing better than knowing that your country is behind you.”
Editing by Frank Pingue