SHELLEY KERR believes Japan’s opening Group D draw with Argentina was a one-off, and that the 2011 World Cup winners remain a form-idable force even though they failed to score against a side 30 places below them in the Fifa rankings on Monday night.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Scotland lost 2-1 to England, which means there is a lot at stake at Roazhon Park in Rennes this afternoon. The winner will almost certainly finish second, at the very least, in the group and qualify automatically for the last 16.

“Japan are a brilliant team,” said head coach Kerr. “People are running away from how good they are because of one result. I played against them way back in 2007 and remember them whizzing by me all night. We lost 2-0 and their movement was incredible.


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“They’re still the same today, it’s all little quick triangles and great possession. You’ll struggle in this whole tournament to see a defensive performance as perfect as the one Argentina put in against them.”

The fine balance for Kerr is to be able to copy aspects of the Argentine tactics – they packed bodies behind the ball to deny Japan the space they normally thrive on – while allowing her own players to play to their strengths.

“We need to think about starting positions, about how we line up when they have comfortable possession, then how to counter-attack them when we have the ball,” she said.

“In years gone by we’ve played the likes of Sweden, we’ve sat in and been absolutely battered 1-0, it could have been six or seven. We’ve grown since then and we don’t want to go back there, to be defending for our lives then losing a goal, because the outcome is the same.

“We need to be able to play our game in spells, while being mindful of the opposition. It’s about recognising when to be expansive and when to sit in.”

Liverpool midfielder Christie Murray, who started against England, has a knee injury and can’t be considered. Otherwise Kerr has 22 players to choose from and all have recovered from the heat and humidity experienced against England.


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The Japanese head coach, Asako Takakura, a former internationalist, said: “Of course, we all wanted to win against Argentina. I don’t tell the players off or get angry. We always think about what we can do next.

“There are a few injuries but they are recovering day by day so it’s not bad in terms of readiness. We’ve discussed what we have to do against Scotland. Our focus is still on the qualifying spot, and we knew nothing was going to be easy.

“The Scottish side is powerful and speedy and quite tall. Of course they have to be feared. Every single one of their players is performing at a very high level.”

All of the Japanese players, bar two, play in their own country. Central defender and captain Saki Kumagai has played in France since 2013 for Champions League holders Lyon. She scored the winning penalty in the 2016 Champions League Cup final, having done the same for Japan when they won the World Cup in 2011.

Rumi Utsugi, a defensive midfielder, plays for Seattle Reign in the United States. Nine of the 23-player squad are with champion club Nippon TV Beleza.