In 1984 the Australian Matildas played Japan in Xian China in a friendly encounter and Australia won 6-2. Over the next 21 encounters Japan have won 9 and Australia have won 5 with 8 draws.
Japan have obviously come a long way since then having filled the trophy case with not only an Asian Cup, but also a World Cup, and tomorrow morning our time, they will once again try to take one step closer to making another addition to their collection.
Australia have scored 27 goals against Japan and Japan have scored 36 goals against Australia with the World Champions winning 7 matches out of the last 10 encounters.
Interestingly, this is the first encounter between AFC representatives in a FIFA Women’s World Cup and has all the makings of a thriller that should not be missed.
Japan have had the easiest run to the Quarter Finals out of the two sides and it will be interesting to see if this benefits them or will the tough run of the ‘battle hardened’ Matildas be an advantage.
“As we are going to have to play with three day's rest from this point on, the important thing will be our conditioning. We would like to have meaningful time in the two days until the game, trying to get our players on the same page,”said Japanese head coach SASAKI Norio.
Some may believe that the Matildas have already played their final against Brazil and this deserves some consideration, but what we should also take into consideration is that the Matildas were together for 129 days in preparation and Stajcic has prepared them for this match.
We should also consider what they are playing for. With the axing of W-League ABC television rights Women’s football will not have a forum in which to show its wares and Football Federation Australia will be counting on the Matildas recent success to entice other interested media outlets.
Japan are technically gifted, have good movement on and off the ball, they have seasoned experienced players, a disciplined attitude and will battle to the end for their homeland and supporters.
Australia, meanwhile have had five days rest have trained to acclimatise to the expected warm temperatures and most importantly have confidence after weathering the “group of death” and subsequently defeating Brazil.
“Just looking at their last four games, they have the momentum, so I believe that they are a lot different than who they were when we faced them in last year's AFC Women's Asia Cup final,” reported Japanese midfielder Kawasumi Nahomi
In the qualifying rounds Japan scored their goals in the first 29 minutes of the match and it is here in this time frame where the Matildas will have to weather the storm and especially defend against the deadly set pieces of Japan.
If they can do this and use their wingbacks to pressure the Japan backline with their continual ‘total football’ philosophy and transient positioning they are more than capable of defeating the World Champions.
Westfield Matildas v Japan Saturday 27 June 2015 Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
Kick-Off: 2.00pm local (6.00am AEST Sunday 28 June) Referee: Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine)
By Paul Brown