Plenty of respect as Japan prepare to face Spain

WELLINGTON : Japan defender Moeka Minami knows Spanish football very well and believes the Group C decider in the New Zealand capital on Monday could be a Women’s World Cup classic between two teams playing in a similar style.

Japan and Spain have been two of the tournament’s standout teams and both have qualified for the last 16 already after dominant wins over Zambia and Costa Rica.

Minami said she has always admired the Spanish style of play when she has come across it in European competition and in age-group tournaments for Japan.

“There are many players that I have played before and they have really good understanding with their team mates,” the 24-year-old Roma centre back told reporters on Sunday.

“I respect the team very much so that whenever I play a Spanish team, it’s kind of more like a final for me.

“They play in a similar style to Japan as well so I think we will have a very interesting match this time. We have to give the opposition lots of respect and make sure that we do our best to present the best of our team as well.”

Spain’s quality in midfield made it hard for their first two opponents to contain them and they have scored eight goals and conceded none in their two matches so far.

Japan are not far behind with seven goals and none conceded, although they did lose to Spain in a friendly in Seville last November.

“We lost 1-0 but we had just started playing three at the back at the time,” Minami recalled.

“Now we have a lot more experience of it and we’ve been talking together to really shape it.

“Spain used different players in that match and so will we tomorrow so I think we can actually maintain our mindset as a different team rather than dwell on the previous pain.”

The 2011 world champions have conceded only two goals in their last six matches – evidence that Japan’s defensive system has now bedded in.

Minami acknowledged Spain will present a tougher proposition but added that would be good preparation for challenges to come at the World Cup.

“I think we’ve been doing what we’re supposed to do,” she said.

“Spain are going to attack us but I think if we keep the goals to the minimum and have a good defensive performance, that’s good preparation for the knockout stage.”

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