In contrast to Tuesday’s semi-final between the world’s two highest ranked teams, Wednesday’s second semi-final pits together two nations with vastly differing records at this level. 2011 champions Japan will start as favourites in most people’s eyes, while standing in their way of a second successive Final appearance are newcomers to this stage of the competition - England.
Match of the day
*Japan-England, Edmonton, 1 July, 17.00 local time
Contrasting football styles provide the backdrop to the second semi-final at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Local fans were hoping to celebrate Canada Day by watching the Canucks in action, only for England to play the role of spoilers with their quarter-final win over the hosts. Neither team will be affected by suspension, although Japan of course lost key forward Kozue Ando to injury early in the tournament.
England coach Mark Sampson was at pains to point out the impressive resilience of his team and it is hard to argue with the evidence. England overcame a slow start to the tournament with in a low-key 1-0 loss to France, and have since recorded four successive 2-1 wins. Included in the run were a comeback victory over Norway, and that win against the hosts in front of a vociferous Vancouver crowd.
Japan’s results have partly mirrored England with Norio Sasaki's side claiming five successive one-goal victories. A theme of those matches has been early goals for the reigning champions, and comfortable second-half performances. Japan, however, were held in the quarter-final until the dying minutes by Australia, but true to their philosophy the *Nadeshiko *maintained their swift ball-movement and mental strength to prevail. A win for Japan in Edmonton will mean they have reached three successive global finals, including the 2012 London Olympics.
*Players to Watch
*Mana Iwabuchi has long been heralded as Japan’s next superstar following years of success at youth level, only to largely remain a peripheral figure over recent years. However, Iwabuchi exuded confidence both on the pitch and when addressing the media post-match after her winner against Australia on Saturday, and her livewire style could prove a massive test for England, especially in the latter stages.
England have long been looking for a consistent goalscoring No9 and in Jodie Taylor they may have finally found their answer. Taylor’s career has been somewhat of a slow-burn after years in and out of the national team, but some impressive returns at club level have seemingly now transferred to the international stage. Winner of the golden-boot in Australia’s W-League was followed by a move to the USA’s all-professional NWSL, and Taylor’s sweetly struck goal against Canada was evidence of a striker at the top of her game.
3 – England are unbeaten in their three previous matches against Japan, with one victory and two draws. England were the only team to defeat Japan at Germany 2011, winning 2-0 in the group stage during the *Nadeshiko’s *charge to their maiden world crown.
*"They are history-makers again, the third ever England team to get to a semi-final. We now join the 1966 and the 1990 club, and I'm very proud of the whole group." *England manager Mark Sampson