Preview Japan – England

Background
The FIFA world ranking teams no 4 and no 6 will meet in what really feels like the second semifinal after the monster clash between Germany and the USA. But there are only 2 games to go for either of these teams what surely will give them additional motivation enough to put together a fine performance.
England with only wins after their initial loss to France managed to overcome Norway and Canada but Japan the only team to have won all their encounters of this world championships so far beating for instance Switzerland, the Netherlands and Australia with a late goal.

What to expect
You might dont like it but expect England to park the bus. What have helped them so far in the tournament should not be changed without good reason. And they could already see in the Japan – Australia game that it is possible to keep the Japanese offense at bay when they meet a solid defense. It will be interesting however to see what efforts England might try to bring in going forward. Maybe they totally rely on set pieces where they could score against Norway and Canada. They changed their line ups regularly and probably they will do so again.
Japan however will play their very special game as they always do and what is their trademark style. A very compact defense and a very fluid game with lots of passing up front that is very entertaining to watch. Will England spoil the party?

Keys to success

1. England defense. Of course that is the main question of the game. How will the very physical style of play of the english defense fare against the very agile but lightweight Japanese players. So far the english defense has done well. Not a bad organization. Solid in their duels. Especially protecting the wing areas. Even if that all came for the price of sacrificing offensive play. It put them through. The main concern is that there have been blips in nearly every game where they gave away a goal by mistakes they should really have avoided. They probably cannot afford this to happen against Japan.

2. Set pieces: In a game where the chances are most likely not to come thick and fast set pieces might play a central roll for the outcome. They helped England in both their ko-stage games so far. But – would you believe it – a corner kick helped the little Japanese what they couldnt achieve in open play for nearly 90 mins – to score the decider against a very physical Australian side. Australia probably still asking themselves how this could happen – though Japan in Iwashimizu and Kumagai have two players with decent header capabilities. But Englands set pieces will always be a threat for the Japanese. However they have not yet conceded a goal after a corner kick yet. But some day one of their opponents will have figured how to move and where to place a ball to get a header with quite free view on goal.

3. 1:0, 1:0, 1:0 England are still the only team to have managed to come back from a deficit in the ko-stages which have seen 13 games so far. Not a good chance so if you are falling 1:0 behind. Will there be a second come back? Surely the come back chances are better if you have a set piece advantage.

Things to watch out for:

If you are based in Europe like I am get yourself some very strong coffee ready. Only in case it might be not for very delightful for the eye of the football enthusiast when England is successfully trying to destroy the game and you will find it hard to prevent from falling asleep.
Apart from that it all depends if Japan will find a way through. As a neutral you should really hope for an early Japan goal because England – when asked to do so – proofed they can play football too.
And England might be on an emotional high where you never know how far that can bring them. The perspective of going into a world championship final have some underdogs seen propelling through a tournament.

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