Out to knock Japan off their perch

Japan's Homare Sawa receiving a pass during a training session in Edmonton on Sunday. Japan will meet England, whom they have not beaten in the teams' last three encounters, in the semi-finals today.
Japan's Homare Sawa receiving a pass during a training session in Edmonton on Sunday. Japan will meet England, whom they have not beaten in the teams' last three encounters, in the semi-finals today.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

EDMONTON (Canada) • Champions Japan face a real threat from England as the Asian giants look to keep their Women's World Cup football title defence on track in today's semi-final in Edmonton.

Japan's "Nadeshiko" are the only unbeaten team left, after opening their campaign with a 1-0 win over Switzerland three weeks ago in the sunshine of Vancouver's west coast.

England by contrast started their quest for a maiden title with a 0-1 loss to France in windy and wet conditions on the east in Moncton.

But England's "Lionesses" have been gaining momentum, beating Mexico, Colombia, 1995 champions Norway and hosts Canada all by 2-1 scorelines, to reach their first semi-final.

Japan over-ran Australia 1-0 in the quarter-finals and have won all their games by a one-goal margin, with the impressive depth of their team demonstrated by their seven goals having come from different players.

TOUGH TASK AHEAD

We're playing the current world champions, it's going to be a huge challenge.

MARK SAMPSON, England women's coach

The "Nadeshiko" defence is also solid - they have conceded just two goals in five matches. But England's front line have put in eight goals, with Lucy Bronze and Karen Carney both scoring twice.

England coach Mark Sampson believes his sixth-ranked side can take heart from being unbeaten against the Japanese, ranked fourth, in their three previous matches.

England were the only team to beat Japan at the 2011 World Cup, winning 2-0 before the Asians went on to claim the title. They also drew 2-2 in the 2007 tournament.

"I'm not sure there are underdogs any more," said Sampson. "They've been one of the most exciting teams to watch, they haven't scored many goals but they haven't conceded many.

" We're playing the current world champions, it's going to be a huge challenge." Bronze added: "Japan are the favourites.

"But we're confident.

"We know how we can beat them. England are going all the way."

Japan coach Norio Sasaki brushed aside talk of past results, saying: "We will not think of negative past results, just focus on those in front of us."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'Out to knock Japan off their perch'. Print Edition | Subscribe