Stylish Yokoyama spurs Japan surge
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The quarter-final on Friday between Japan and the Republic of Ireland will be a stark clash of styles in Arima. The Japanese are a stylish lot, technically gifted and eager to move the ball on the ground while the Irish are full of earnest endeavour and willing to put in the hard work. “We don’t like to kick the ball long and then just go chasing after it; this is not fun football.” Kumi Yokoyama told FIFA.com after terrorising the New Zealand defence in Tobago on Monday. “We play our football on the ground and that is where we’re most effective.”

The diminutive Jumonji High School attacker likes to take up an advanced position out left in the Japanese midfield, roaring forward at every opportunity with minimal defending duties. And what she lacks in height and girth she more than makes up for in individual technique and a willingness to take opponents on. “I had no problem dribbling the ball around the girls from New Zealand and I love to do it,” added Yokoyama, who came on as a substitute in an opening loss to Spain and again in the 6-0 thrashing of Venezuela, in which she scored.

I think we can go to the final because our style is different than the other teams here. And I think we can win it too!
Kumi Yokoyama of Japan.

Her strong performances brought with them a starting spot against the Kiwis and she rewarded coach Hiroshi Yoshida with a pair of goals in another 6-0 win. “I love to score goals, so the game was a good one for me,” she said. “It’s a special feeling to score in a World Cup and I am very happy.”

“Our style is very simple to describe. We like to pass the ball on the ground and keep it moving all the time,” the silky striker continued, perhaps describing the diametric opposite of their opponents in the quarter-finals, Ireland, who love to harry and nag and blast the ball from distance. I like to have the opponent chasing the ball around and then when I get the chance to take on a defender one-on-one, I don’t hesitate to do it.”

Yokoyama links up well with her teammates in what might be the most technically advanced team at these finals. Between Haruna Kawashima, Mai Kyokawa, Chika Kato and Yokoyama, the Asians – who finished third in qualifying from their confederation – have a smashing frontline with a variety of options available to coach Yoshida. As such, Yokoyama is confident in her team’s chances of not only beating the Irish, but going all the way to the final. “I think we can go to the final because our style is different than the other teams here,” she concluded with an impish smile in the labyrinth of corridors in guts of the Dwight Yorke Stadium in the Tobago. “And I think we can win it too!”