Women's World Cup: What can Scotland expect from Japan?
|Women's World Cup: Japan v Scotland|
|Venue: Roazhon Park, Rennes Date: Friday, 14 June Kick-off: 14:00 BST|
|Coverage: Watch on BBC One Scotland & BBC Alba, listen on BBC Radio Scotland, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app.|
Japan's performance in their opening World Cup match against Argentina fell short of expectations for a team ranked seventh in the world. But it was further evidence of a squad in transition, whose priority is a medal at next year's Tokyo Olympics.
It may seem odd to some, but this World Cup appears to be a warm-up competition for a young squad still relatively inexperienced at full international level - 17 of the 23 are playing at their first World Cup.
The old guard from 2011's surprise triumph and the 2015 final have largely been replaced - as has the coach - and though the new breed was still good enough to win last year's Asian Cup, beating Australia in the final, there is an inconsistency about the 'Nadeshiko' which can give Scotland heart.
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They were stifled by a hard-working Argentina and there are weakness Shelley Kerr's side can look to exploit. The Scots may not be giants but still have greater physical presence than the diminutive Japanese, so better delivery into the box than they showed against England could prove profitable.
But despite their unconvincing start, Japan's technical ability will still pose Scotland problems. If they are allowed to get their short, intricate passing moves together, they could find gaps in a back-line that looked less than assured against England.
Asako Takakura is likely to make some changes in personnel, knowing they will likely have to beat Scotland to have a chance of progressing.
Japan play a fairly standard 4-4-2 formation, though they switched to a 4-2-3-1 late in the game against Argentina as they chased an elusive winner.
They are without a win in their last five matches. Indeed, a 3-1 victory over Brazil at the She Believes Cup is their only victory in the seven games they have played in 2019.
Ones to watch
Saki Kumagai: One of only two players in the squad who play abroad, the centre back and captain has been a mainstay of Lyon's ultra-successful team since 2013. Over the course of her 105 international appearances, she has won a World Cup runners-up medal and, most significantly, scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out victory over the USA in 2011. Now, at 28, she is in the prime of her career, a fact underlined by her nomination for BBC World Player of the Year this season.
Hina Sugita: The central midfielder from Kobe Leonessa is the team's playmaker and one the Scotland management team are well aware of. She is one of six players who won the under-17 World Cup with Takakura in 2014 and, as captain of that side, scored five goals and was voted the tournament's best player. Still just 22 and with only eight caps, her inexperience could be an issue given the responsibility she has within the team. She was somewhat fortunate to avoid a second yellow card against Argentina.
Kumi Yokoyama: The intelligent striker had a frustrating time of it against Argentina and was replaced with less than an hour gone. Scotland will have to nullify her in a similar fashion to the Argentines because given space, she can cause havoc. She likes to drop off the front and, if allowed to turn, will look to thread passes into her strike partner or the wide midfielders, who will try to run in behind the Scots defence. But she can be a goal threat herself, with 17 in her 42 international appearances, including the winner against Australia in the final of last year's Asian Cup.