Hiroki Sakai (L) of Japan and team mates goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda (C) and Maya Yoshida celebrate at the end of their men's quarterfinal soccer match against Egypt at the London 2012 Olympic Games at Old Trafford in Manchester, August 4, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Andrea Comas )
Japan has quietly become a major force in the tournament. That's what happens when you shock the world with a victory of mighty Spain, d win your group without allowing a single goal against, and then trample the Egyptian squad by three goals in the quarter finals. Their match against Mexico should be their greatest challenge but there are numerous reasons to prepare for a Japanese win.
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That might be the number Japan rallies around. Through 360 plus minutes, that is the number of goals that have hit the net in the back of Japan's goal. How have they achieved said prowess?
They play a peerless possession game that places a great deal of pressure on the opposition. On the counter, they collapse into a shell that clogs the midfield and keeps chances limited. No one has done it better in this tournament to date.
Their opponents had claim to that same stat until they collapsed against Senegal with two goals against in the quarter finals.
With the exception of Brazil who has managed wins without even trying at times, no one has the right to be more confident than Japan. Seven points in a group that included heavy weights like Spain and Morocco and a hard working Honduras squad is no easy feat. To do it without scoring more than two goals and allowing zero is even more impressive. To follow that up with a 3-0 thrashing of an Egyptian team that was on the incline is even more heroic. This team is getting better and better as the tournament progresses because of their confident. They have come up with huge games in high pressure situations time and again and there is no reason to believe that they will not continue to do so.
Mexico is probably equally confident, but they will know the weight of the world rests on their shoulders and will have added pressure of knowing that they must do what four other teams couldn't against the Samurais: score.
Japan does not have that amount of pressure. Despite being the top team in the tournament, most would have Mexico as the favorite to win the match, taking off pressure from Japan.
Mexico arguably has more talent on their side, but Japan has more tenacity and grit to overcome them. They have won most of their matches with a combination of skill and grit and as a result, have won convincingly. No other team has looked as committed to playing in all areas of the pitch thus far and this clearly gives Japan an edge against a Mexican squad that has looked good in the back and middle, but lethargic up top for long durations.
Disagree? Read why Mexico will win HERE.