Scotland boss Shelley Kerr has a past with Japanese - as player and worker

Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr talks to the press in Rennes. Picture: Lorraine Hill
Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr talks to the press in Rennes. Picture: Lorraine Hill
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Scotland head coach Shelley
Kerr knows all about the Japanese mindset, having worked for Mitsubishi Electric in Livingston for 17 years after leaving school.

She was a Scotland player while with the Japanese industrial giants and rose from the production line to become a section manager at the plant which produces air conditioning units and heat pumps.

This afternoon, at Roazhon Park in Rennes, she will pit her wits against a nation which has a fine history in women’s football.

Japan won the World Cup in 2011, finished runners-up to the United States four years ago, and are currently the ranked the seventh best side in the world.

All of those things, nevertheless, were undermined when they failed to score against an Argentinian side ranked 30 places below them in Paris on Monday night.

Moreover, the Japanese offered little attacking threat and had very few attempts on target in the 0-0 draw. With Scotland having lost 2-1 to England 24 hours earlier in Nice, neither side can afford to lose today. In contrast, three points would probably guarantee at least second place in Group D and qualification for the last 16.

Kerr insists Japan’s display on Monday was a one-off. “They are a brilliant team,” said the former centre back. “People are running away from how good they are because of one result.

“I played against them way back in 2007 and remember them whizzing by me all night. We lost 2-0 and their movement was incredible.

“They’re still the same today, it’s all little quick triangles and great possession. You’ll struggle in this whole tournament to see a defensive performance as perfect as the one Argentina put in against them.”

The task for Kerr is to be able to copy aspects of those Argentine tactics – they packed bodies behind the ball to deny Japan the space they normally thrive on – while allowing her own players to play to their strengths.

“We need to think about starting positions, about how we line up when they have comfortable possession, then how to counter-attack them when we have the ball,” she pointed out.

“We need to be able to play our game in spells, while being mindful of the opposition. It’s about recognising when to be expansive and when to sit in.”

Liverpool midfielder Christie Murray, who started against England, has a knee injury and can’t be considered.

Otherwise Kerr has 22 players to choose from and all have recovered from the hot and humid conditions experienced against England.

The Japanese head coach, Asako Takakura, herself a former internationalist, said: “Of course, we all wanted to win against Argentina. I don’t tell the players off or get angry – we always think about what we can do next.

“There are a few injuries but they are recovering day by day so it’s not bad in terms of readiness. We’ve discussed what we have to do against Scotland. Our focus is still on the qualifying spot, and we knew nothing was going to be easy.

“The Scottish side is powerful and speedy and quite tall. Of course they have to be feared. Every single one of their players is performing at a very high level.”

All of the Japanese personnel, bar two, play in their own country. Central defender and captain Saki Kumagai has played in France since 2013 for Champions League holders Lyon.

She scored the winning penalty in the 2016 Champions League final, having done the same for her country when they won the World Cup in 2011.

Rumi Utsugi, a defensive midfielder, plays for Seattle Reign in the United States. Nine of the 23-player squad are with champion club Nippon TV Beleza.