Japan eyes win over Kiwis at World Cup
Asian powerhouse can't afford to take Oceania champs lightly
Day 2, Match 3
Japan vs. New Zealand, Group B
Date and Location
June 27, Ruhrstadion, Bochum, Germany
Live on Rogers Sportsnet and CBCSports.ca (8:45 am ET). Consult the full broadcast schedule.
What's at stake
Japan is the seeded team in Group B, but must pundits consider England the favourites in this round-robin. A setback against the upstart Football Ferns would be a big blow for Japan, so this is a game it really needs to win. A victory or a draw would give New Zealand a major boost ahead of its final two group-stage games.
Setting the stage
Generally accepted as the weakest of the four seeded nations, Japan will expect to kick off Group B with a victory over New Zealand at the Ruhrstadion.
New Zealand, after all, has never won a match at the Women's World Cup but this may be closer than it seems at first glance. The Football Ferns pushed the Japanese all the way at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, earning a 2-2 draw having led 2-0 until the last 20 minutes.
Japan has the technical ability to preserve its unbeaten record against New Zealand. Homare Sawa and Aya Miyama will create from midfield while Shinobu Ohno is the team's star striker. New Zealand will rely on the experience of defender Rebecca Smith, the midfield leadership of Hayley Moorwood and the goal threat of Amber Hearn and Kirsty Yallop.
Player to watch for Japan
Homare Sawa — A veteran of four World Cups, Sawa is the finest player to emerge from Asia. The tiny, combative central midfielder is noted for keeping her composure under pressure, and she will be a crucial presence for Japan in Germany.
Player to watch for New Zealand
Hayley Moorwood — Moorwood is a solid box-to-box midfielder, noted for her athleticism on the field. As New Zealand's captain and one of the team's few players who earn a living playing in Europe, she provides invaluable leadership on a young Kiwi side that lacks experience.
"We want to produce a result that will be at least better than the last-four we reached in Beijing. A medal may be hard to come by. But we have no choice but to go for it. We will work hard and aim high." — midfielder Homare Sawa told AFP
New Zealand perspective
"We have achieved some pretty good results but we have also let some matches slip, so I think it comes down to the need to work on consistency as part of our overall development." — midfielder Hayley Moorwood told UEFA.com
World Cup head-to-head
Japan and New Zealand have never met before at the World Cup, but they did battle to a 2-2 draw at the 2008 Olympics. They also squared off three times in friendlies dating back to 2000, with the Japanese winning all three contests.