Spain and Japan will face each other on 5 March in the first game of the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. The side coached by Jorge Vilda what could be the easiest of their opponents first, waiting for the USA and England next.
Japan is considered one of the best international teams in women’s football, but in recent years the side has seen a fall in quality. They were world champions in 2011 and runners up in 2015, but in last year’s FIFA World Cup they were sent home in the round of 16 after a late win by the Netherlands.
Both teams arrived on Tuesday after a long journey and have been recovering from jet lag doing specific training at the gym.
In the case of the Japanese, they were relieved the flight went as planned after the COVID-19 outbreak and all 23 players arrived healthy. Saki Kumagai, who plays for Olympique Lyon, met the team in Dallas.
Jorge Vilda has been in charge of ‘La Roja’ since 2015 and has been introducing new young players throughout the years. However, the average age is over 25.5.
On the other hand, the possible downfall of the nadeshiko is this same thing, their average age has decreased to 24, with Vilda's side even having 20-year-old players on the team.
The domestic league in the Asian country is stopped at the moment, so the players will not be as tired which could be a positive asset for the match on Thursday. However, this could also be a weakness as they have gone a while without playing competitive matches.
In Spain, 6 of the 8 fixtures last week in Liga Iberdrola were played on Sunday, which meant most players had to leave straight afterwards. This time, Jorge Vilda hasn’t had time to prepare the team in Spain.
Players to watch
Spanish left-sided striker, Jenni Hermoso, has been the star at Barcelona this season. She already led ‘La Roja’ in France last summer, but she is now the top scorer in Europe with 18 goals in 16 matches.
In the Japanese squad, it’s Saki Kumagai. The Olympique Lyon defender is the only woman playing outside Japan, which gives her that extra experience.
She has been made captain of the national team after Homare Sawa retired. According to FIFA, she is among the best players in the world due to her tough leadership skills.