EDMONTON (Reuters) - England may be being written off by some as rank outsiders for their Women’s World Cup semi-final against defending champions Japan, but their opponents certainly aren’t under-estimating them.
The Lionesses beat hosts Canada 2-1 on Saturday to reach the semi-finals for the first time, but Japan know very well that they are up against a dangerous opponent having lost to England 2-0 during the group stage in 2011.
“We lost to England four years ago. Regardless of what style we produce or how we play, we just want to get a win,” attacking midfielder Aya Miyama said after training on Monday.
“Their goalkeeper (Karen Bardsley) is very high quality. They are technically very skilled across the team. We need to defend together well, as a unit, across the field.”
The match, scheduled to be played on Wednesday in Edmonton, will represent a clear contrast in styles - Japan play a short-passing, possession-based soccer while England have a more direct, attacking style.
“England have a lot of pace and they also have the ability to play long balls, so we need to watch out for that,” said Japan midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi.
Japan needed an 87th minute goal from substitute Mana Iwabuchi to defeat a determined Australia on Saturday and they have had the advantage of not having to travel following that win.
It wasn’t a classic performance from Norio Sasaki’s team, who had sparkled in their 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the round of 16 but faced some relentless pressing from the Australian midfield.
Kawasumi says the team have yet to hit their peak and will need to raise their game against the English.
“Im not satisfied yet - we need to improve even more and develop our quality for the next two matches,” said Kawasumi.
“But I also think if we have got to this stage, it shows we have been doing some things right, so that can give us confidence to advance from here.”
Editing by Frank Pingue