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Japan v Scotland: Underdogs can win…if they are brave

Japan v Scotland: Underdogs can win…if they are brave

Scotland v Japan
Friday June 14, 14.00
BBC One and BBC ALBA

Scotland can take heart from Japan’s performance

Scotland will have been enthused by Japan’s uninspiring showing in their 0-0 draw with Argentina on match day one. Japan are usually a vibrant technical team who move the ball and themselves very quickly. However, this is a Japan team in transition and it doesn’t look as though everyone is on the same wavelength just yet in Asako Takakura‘s side.

Their play was predictable and pedestrian and Shelley Kerr will be confident that her defence will be able to contain Japan based on that showing. Japan opted for a very youthful midfield pairing of Hina Sugita and Narumi Miura against Argentina, which was a brave move. However, Scotland will be confident of being able to take Japan on technically in midfield with players like Kim Little and Caroline Weir in the engine room.

Shelley Kerr needs to be brave

There were learning points from Scotland’s 2-1 defeat to England on Sunday too. Shelley Kerr opted to play Chelsea forward Erin Cuthbert as a roving lone forward, when really she is at her best as a wide forward. Cuthbert was forced to come deep with her back to goal too often, when she is far better facing up defenders and taking them on with her pace and drive.

Too often she was cut adrift. Kerr will carefully consider whether to reintroduce more traditional number 9 Jane Ross into the fray for Cuthbert to play off. Scotland also played Arsenal winger Lisa Evans on the left, which is a bit of a waste of her talents. Evans specialises in powering to the by-line for cut-backs, but her powers are reduced in an unnatural left sided role.

After defeat on the opening day, Scotland need a result and they will be encouraged by Japan’s drab display against Argentina. They will believe they can take three points and put themselves in an excellent position to qualify from the group. If they make these tweaks- Ross upfront and Evans to the right-hand side, I fancy them to cause a small upset against Japan.

Scotland need to get the balance right

The disappointing 0-0 draw with Argentina was also Japan’s first clean sheet in eight games. That said, Scotland cannot afford to be too gun-ho, because this young Japan team glory in open spaces. Kerr is a manager that favours tactical discipline, getting the balance right between attack and defence will be vital for Scotland’s chances.

They can take inspiration from their 1-0 friendly win over Brazil in April, when Scotland shackled Marta and Andressa and were able to make their attacking quality count through Kim Little and Erin Cuthbert. An added advantage of playing Cuthbert off Jane Ross is that Scotland can move Arsenal captain Little into more of a deep lying playmaker role.

Often they struggled to spread the play quickly enough against England with Little playing as more of a second striker. If Kerr makes these tweaks, I would back Scotland to beat Japan at 9/2. I think Scotland should trust their midfield to take on Japan’s technicality then rely on Little’s passing and Cuthbert’s running to cause Japan issues. Scotland to win 2-1 is 16/1 and I like the look of that – which also makes Scotland to win and both teams to score a good bet at 10/1.

Japan are the superior team overall

However, Japan still represent quality opposition and they need a result. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Scotland took the lead and fell away, it’s 20/1 for Scotland to lead at half-time but for Japan to win at full-time if you’re feeling adventurous. But make no mistake, Japan are the stronger team overall and the Argentina match might just have represented an off-day against a team determined to defend in numbers.

I don’t expect this to be a goalfest and if you don’t share my good feeling for Scotland, or else if Shelley Kerr remains cautious in her team selection, then Japan to win 2-1 at 13/2 looks appealing. I think this will be quite a close game either way, so perhaps the handicap markets would be a good idea for this one. Much will depend on how Scotland approach the game, so I am going to sit on the fence a little and tip a 1-1 draw at 11/2.

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