Tactical contrast in semi-final clash
© Getty Images

The first semi-final at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014 between Venezuela and Japan sees the two best defences of the tournament go head-to-head, although the teams deploy very different tactics.

The match
Venezuela-Japan, Liberia, 31 March 2014, 17:00 
Kenneth Zseremeta’s girls have already made history as the first Venezuelan team to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament, but they are by no means done yet. They have only conceded two goals in four games so far, and both of those were in the quarter-finals against Canada. The South Americans also feature two of the top three goalscorers in Costa Rica, five-goal Deyna Castellanos and Gabriela Garcia on four. Practically all of Venezuela’s attacking moves involve aiming long balls up to the front pair who have struck up a tremendous understanding and are in deadly form.

Japan could have a problem coping with their opponents’ direct approach, as they are at a considerable physical disadvantage compared to the South Americans. However, the technically and tactically refined team coached by Asako Takemoto Takakura have dealt comfortably with everything put in their way so far, sweeping all before them with an impressive blend of team unity and flowing attacking moves. They comfortably won their group and were clearly superior to quarter-final opponents Mexico in running up a 2–0 victory. Venezuela cannot afford to let the Japanese get going and must impose their own authority on the contest or they will surely find the problem too difficult to solve.

Player to watch
Venezuela’s Franyely Rodriguez is likely to be much the busier of the two keepers. Japan have looked a fearsome proposition in attack and have scored 17 goals at the tournament so far. But Rodriguez proved she can keep her cool under pressure in the group encounter against Italy with a series of fine saves to frustrate the European opposition.

The stat
0
Japan have reached the semi-finals without picking up a single yellow card. Furthermore the Asians have yet to concede in their four games to date. By contrast Venezuela have collected four yellows in total.

The words
"Like in the Bible, I think that we are David, and Japan is Goliath. But we are not afraid of them, and we are going to play like we are used to. We have watched a lot of their games, and studied them well, so we are ready," Venezuela coach Kenneth Zseremeta

"We occasionally run into trouble against teams who play a long ball game and make use of their physical edge. Beating Venezuela will depend on us preventing them playing to their strengths and exploiting our weaknesses," Japan midfielder Yui Hasegawa

The semi-final schedule:
Venezuela-Japan (Estadio Edgardo Baltodano, Liberia, 17:00)
Italy-Spain (Estadio Edgardo Baltodano, Liberia, 20:00)