SEVILLE, Spain — Spain ended the international break with a 1-0 victory over Japan on Tuesday thanks to an early goal from Alba Redondo. With goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita’s gloves pitted from a long-range effort, Redondo slid past the Japanese backline to run over the loose ball, shooting it into the top right corner nine minutes into the game friendly.
Although both teams continued to create half chances throughout the night, it was a slow affair that failed to come to life, offering no more goals.
The game served as a preview for next summer’s Women’s World Cup as Spain and Japan face off in Group C at the tournament held in Australia and New Zealand – but the stakes have certainly risen felt weaker.
ESPN’s Sophie Lawson has a reaction and analysis from the Estadio Olímpico de la Cartuja.
1. New-look Spain still has questions to answer
In the aftermath of the dispute between the majority of the Spanish senior women’s team on one side, and their coach and their federation on the other, a new Spanish team continues to emerge.
Vilda has fielded a group of young players and those lacking senior international experience, but for the starting issues these are players who should be better suited to their coach’s abilities.
For too long the manager has populated his squad with Barcelona players and tried to rely on the style associated with the Blaugrana, although he rarely met on the pitch for Spain. In a team that is now populated by players from Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Levante and other clubs, the coach can go back to basics and balance high-possession football with much more of a threat. direct attack.
In their first game of the month, La Roja had against a defensively disorganized Argentina side who repeatedly caved under pressure from the hosts – but against Japan, Spain were told to work harder and be smarter on the ball. Perhaps tired of the level or still trying to get used to playing with each other, the hosts repeatedly failed when it came to that extra intelligence or finesse when they needed it.
2. The Japanese attack remains an unfinished puzzle
After initially favoring Riko Ueki to lead the line when he took over as Japan coach, Futoshi Ikeda opted to keep the young striker on the bench for this window’s loss to England and the first Tuesday’s half against Spain. Instead, he used Mana Iwabuchi as a false nine against England before introducing Mina Tanaka, who kept her spot for the start of the second game.
Yet where Iwabuchi, the experienced striker, had been able to affect play against the Lionesses, she was cheap with the ball when she had it against Spain.
Indeed, the Japanese attack seems to be where players spend the domestic season playing for different clubs, so when Nadeshiko could organize attacks against La Roja, the Japanese seemed continuously disjointed. Much-needed partnerships seem either yet to be made or have failed during the league season.
The introduction of Ueki in the second half gave Japan a little more focus in attack and once again Yui Hasegawa tried to be the catalyst, positioning himself in the majority of Japan’s attacks and desperately trying to find players to enter the penalty area.
The match continued as they tend to do, with Ikeda taking to his bench to try and inject life into the team, flipping the play between adding hungry players trying to impress and disrupting everything. building flow. The introduction of Fuka Nagano after the hour mark helped the team expand up the pitch and gain space between the lines – but despite all the best work in midfield, the attack remained dull .
3. Two teams very in transition but little time
With both teams in a state of transition and knowing that they will face off in what is on paper the decisive and final game of their World Cup group stage in July, it was always going to be difficult to make any statements. clear on this friendly. Indeed, on a night when you had hoped for skillful teams trying to distinguish themselves, you found yourself with young teams still feeling things on this level.
It would be unfair to downgrade the game to the stature of a pre-season friendly or similar, but it had that look of players not quite 100%, always trying to feel things, always looking for each other and an understanding wider of how their coaches want them to play.
For Spain and their new team, that’s understandable and acceptable – the young players Vilda called up amid the veterans’ sudden withdrawal will need time to upgrade to senior international level after all. Yet for Ikeda, who took charge of Japan following the departure of Asako Takakura following a disappointing Olympic campaign last year, this is the time in his tenure where the pieces should fall into place.
The Nadeshiko are not only boosted by the fact that players are playing professionally around the world, but also by the advent of the women’s empowerment league in Japan, a full-time league that allows all home players to play at a professional level. The question becomes why, when you have all these professional players who understand how to play football and who impress every week for their national clubs, does it always feel like a difficult experience when they come together for their national team?
There were some bright moments for the visitors after the break and indeed the Spanish defense were not allowed to die down even in the dying exchanges – but for Japan the performance was once again not corresponded to the potential on the ground. With just three more international windows before the teams meet for the World Cup, things don’t look too positive for the 2011 champions.
Spain: Misa 6, Ivana 6, Rocío 6, Olga 7, Zornoza 6, Oroz 6, Teresa 6, Redondo 7, Shelia 5, Cardona 6, Athénée 5
Subtitles: Oihane 5, Paralluelo 5, Nahikari 6, Fiamma 5, Perez
Japan: Yamashita 6, Miyake 6, Shimizu 5, Minami 6, Kumagai 6, Naomoto 5, Hasegawa 6, Hayashi 6, Tanaka 5, Endo 6, Fujino 5
Subtitles: Ueki 6, Norimatsu 5, Sugita 6, Nagano 6, Miyazawa 5
Best and Worst Performers
BEST: Olga Carmona, Spain
The left-back had a few looks with shots from range but stuck to his defensive duties to do a lot of cleaning past Misa.
WORST: Hikaru Naomoto, Japan
The midfielder remained absent on the pitch, with Japan looking better once she was substituted.
Spain: Matches for the next windows have yet to be announced, but Spain are set to face Costa Rica, Zambia and Japan in Group C of the World Cup in July.
Japan: Matches for the next windows have yet to be announced, but Japan are set to face Zambia, Costa Rica and Spain in Group C of the World Cup in July.