Japan’s playmaker Yui Hasegawa says it is vital that they maintain their level of performance against Norway in Saturday’s last 16 clash.
Japan stormed through the group stage at the Women’s World Cup with three dominant wins.
The 2011 champions exited in the first knockout round four years ago in France but are in much better shape this year.
This was after scoring 11 goals in the group stage, which they rounded out with a 4-0 dismantling of Spain.
“Three matches, three clean sheets and into the knockout stage – what we have to do is keep up that level of performance,” said Hasegawa, who featured in all three group matches.
“The players are doing well. There’s more than one player doing well.
“Overall, we know we can rely on our team mates to help us. We have to keep working together.”
The last 16 exit at the hands of the Netherlands in 2019 was a big blow to the Nadeshiko.
He had captured the hearts of a nation by winning the 2011 title and reaching the final four years later.
“This is a separate game,” added Hasegawa, who scored Japan’s goal in the 2-1 loss to the Dutch in Rennes.
“Of course we didn’t like losing last time … but the team as a whole should not be thinking about that game.”
Coach Futoshi Ikeda said defender Shiori Miyake, who was injured in training earlier this week, had done some conditioning work on Thursday and might be available to play at Wellington Stadium on Saturday.
Japan’s whole campaign has been about the team rather than individual players.
Ikeda, who rotated his squad through the group stage, said that would not change as they moved closer to their target of winning the World Cup for a second time.
“We are working towards that goal, and the atmosphere of the team, the strength of the team is being realised well in this World Cup,” he said.
“Each player is performing their role. They’re not only performing to their own capacity, but they are working as a unit. It’s all about the collective.”
Japan had a winning record against 1995 world champions Norway, and Ikeda said his side would not be intimidated by the taller Scandinavians.
“We’re still going to try to be aggressive,” he said.
“That’s what we plan to do tomorrow.” (Reuters/NAN)