By JACK AMI
GROUP B front-runners Japan and Spain go head to head at Bava Park this afternoon with both sides coming off big wins.
On the opening day of the World Cup on Sunday, Japan embarrassed 2014 runners-up Nigeria 6-0 in the evening fixture, while Spain posted a clinical 5-0 win over a young Canadian side.
In spite of the sweltering conditions, Spain out-skilled the bigger Canadian side and broke them down through the course of the match while Japan showed a great anticipation and the ability to compose plays from anywhere on the paddock against an athletic and taller Nigerian side.
With the question of class partially-answered in their opening games, today’s clash should decide which team goes on to top the pool.
Nigeria may have underestimated Japan’s value as an attacking side while Spain arguably had the easier of the opening fixtures, taking on a Canada side which coach Danny Worthington admitted pre-tournament was here for the experience as much as anything else.
Japan coach Asako Takakura said she was confident her players would be able to handle what Spain brought to the table.
She said their fitness and execution came together well in the match against Nigeria and she expected her side to follow their game plan against a side that would probably be a tougher challenge.
“We have no injury worries,” Takakura said.
All my players are in good condition and good form and we are ready to play our second group match.
“We will play the Japanese way and style against Spain.
“The winner will most likely top the group so it is an important match. Our style of play is our best weapon and we will not change that. We are focused on finishing at the top of the group. All the players are looking forward to the game.”
Japan’s in-form players in striker Yuka Momiki and Mami Ueno scored three and two goals respectively in their 6-0 thumping of the Falconets.
Both sides are expected to find the heat and humidity a challenge however Japan, who played in PNG last May, have a slight edge in this area.
Spain have the benefit of playing their opening match against Canada in the afternoon. Spain’s Nahikari Garcia, Maria Caldentey, Lucia Garcia, Aitana Bonmati and Patricia Guijarro will be players to watch today.
By JACK AMI