Arakawa: Belief is the key
© Foto-net

Japan striker Eriko Arakawa has a haircut which makes her stand out from the crowd. Combine it with her aggressive style of play and opposing defenders would be right to be wary. But as found out, off the pitch she cuts an unassuming figure, open and softly spoken.

The 27-year-old has played in both of Japan's matches to date at the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007 and while she has yet to find the net, she has more than played her part. Despite struggling with a knee injury she stepped off the bench to aid Japan's successful push for a late winner against Argentina - a result that leaves Hiroshi Ohashi's joint-top of Group A with Germany on four points. They will now face the holders on Monday in Hangzhou in a match that will determine the fate of both sides and as the veteran of 51 internationals noted: "We absolutely have to beat Germany."

This will be no easy task for Japan, who have impressed the crowds in China with their clever short passing game and knack of scoring late goals. In each of their games so far, they have manage to grab extra points with injury-time strikes, leaving first England and then Argentina no time to react. "I think these late goals can be put down to our mental strength," said Arakawa.

And it is exactly that quality that they will need to show in Hangzhou. "The Germans have a very strong team, but we shouldn't spend too much time worrying about what they're capable of. We need to believe in our own qualities. Our determination is our great strength," said Arakawa, with a smile that suggested the Japan team are quite happy in their role as underdogs.

"This is all we're focusing on. Ever since the final whistle against Argentina, the whole team's been talking about the Germany match," added Arakawa. The same applies to her coach, who was asked about the decider in the immediate aftermath of the Argentina match. "We need to work in training on being more efficient in front of goal," Ohashi said. The Japanese know only too well that chances will be few and far between against Birgit Prinz and Co, so when they come, they will have to take them. Be it in the first minute or the last.