Japan and England go into Tuesday's match at the 2019 SheBelieves Cup knowing that whoever wins the match will win the tournament. For Japan, this could be a testament to how well they are developing their young squad while for England, winning the competition will show just how well they can match up with the best in the game right now.
A vibrant, youthful frontline looks to make Japan champions
At the start of the tournament, not many expected such an inexperienced roster to match up as well as they have against some of the so-called big nations in the women's game but Japan have shown that their faith in developing a new generation is beginning to pay off. With not many veterans from the group that stunned the world eight years ago, this new look Japan employs the same style and system as their predecessors combined with an exuberance that can only come from young players looking to make their name on the world stage.
Players like Yuka Mokimi and Yui Hasegawa have shown an eye for goal and an understanding for attacking play that would please any coach while Emi Nakajima has stepped into the role as the creative force in midfield nicely. These players have been supported by the veteran presence of Saki Kumagai and Rumi Utsugi in two areas of the field that need a more experienced head to keep order, in the backline and the midfield. Against, England those veterans will be needed to marshal those around them to stop the pace that England possess but also give them a platform to get at a sometimes shaky English defense.
A full 90 minute performance will give England the victory they want
England have shown in spurts over the last two games that they are a match for any team. The reason why they have not already wrapped up this competition has been their inability to see out a game. Against a Japanese side that has shown resilience and a never-say-die attitude, England cannot afford to be lax at any time during the game.
Steph Houghton as always will be looked to to keep her backline compact for as long as possible against Japan who are capable to slicing teams apart quickly. England will look to sit back and soak up Japan's pressure before countering with their pace. Against the United States Women's National Team and Brazil, the pace up top of the likes of Ellen White and Fran Kirby, has been their greatest strength and if they can get at Japan with that pace, they can create chances for themselves. They also have a height advantage over the Japanese so set pieces will be key for England. As long as they maintain a high level for 90 or so minutes, they will win the 2019 SheBelieves Cup.