English ponder Asian education
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There is no doubt that the story of New Zealand 2008 so far has been something of an Asian fairytale. Against all expectations, Japan, with their thrilling brand of total football, have been the name on everyone's lips, while success for the two Koreas has left the AFC as the only confederation with all of its teams through to the last eight.

England, with wins over Brazil and Nigeria already under their belt, were certainly given a humbling demonstration of the Asians' strength Down Under when they were outclassed by Korea Republic, supposedly the weakest of the continent's three contenders. The Taeguk Ladies had finished third in the AFC preliminaries, but they made sure of beating Brazil, Nigeria and, of course, the English to top spot in Group D with an emphatic and thoroughly deserved 3-0 victory.

That Lois Fidler's Lionesses still qualified, living to fight another day, was cause for relief - but relief tempered by the knowledge that surrendering top spot had left them to face, arguably, the tournament's outstanding team. Yet while Japan comfortably outscored everyone en route to the last eight, chalking up an incredible 17 goals in just three games, Fidler and her players believe they can learn from the harsh lessons administered by their first Asian opponents.

As captain Jordan Nobbs told FIFA.com: "Suth Korea were very quick, very skilful on the ball and terrific dribblers, and I think Japan will be exactly the same. That's something we'll need to look out for and we'll come up with a plan on the areas we need to improve to be able to compete."

Nobbs' coach shares this belief that, unpalatable as it was at the time, the experience of being so overrun by Korea Republic should prepare her players better than any victory could have managed. "It should be a massive help to our girls," she said. "They're U-17 players, they're learning all the time. and if they can't pick up as many lessons from losing as they can from winning, they're doing themselves an injustice. I certainly hope we'll be better prepared for that style of football after this experience.

"The players are a very honest bunch in their appraisal of matches and they know that we can play a lot better than we did against the Koreans. And we'll need to play better, it's as simple as that. But although Japan have obviously been doing extremely well here, we'll look at them closely and see what ways we can try to cancel out their strengths and maximise ours."

The loss of four goals during the group stage would certainly suggest that Japan's defence is far from infallible, but neutralising their intuitive attacking flair, allied to the individual brilliance of Mana Iwabuchi and Chinatsu Kira, is likely to prove considerably more troublesome. Nobbs, however, insists the Asian revelations should not expect England to give up their New Zealand 2008 dream without a fight.

"We've watched some of Japan's games and they have been outstanding," she acknowledged. "But we are ecstatic to be here and we will do everything to make sure we stay a part of this competition."