Shelley Kerr on how Scotland can beat Japan in World Cup clash

Scotland coach Shelley Kerr says that Friday's opponents Japan 'keep the ball for fun'.Picture: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Scotland coach Shelley Kerr says that Friday's opponents Japan 'keep the ball for fun'.Picture: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
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Although she has given her players an extra day’s rest to recover from the hot and humid conditions experienced at the Allianz Riviera, there was plenty to occupy the mind of Shelley Kerr as she pondered the 2-1 World Cup defeat by England on Sunday.

In many ways it was a remarkably benign result, and one which may help when it comes to qualification for the last 16. But the Scotland head coach will want to figure out why her players were so off the pace for 35 minutes of a first half England dominated in Nice.

Kerr, pictured, knows that the next assignment – against Japan in Rennes on Friday afternoon – will be similarly difficult and that Scotland will be punished again if they are not switched on from the first whistle to the last.

“The Japan game will be a tough one, for sure,” said Kerr ahead of the meeting with a side who won the 2011 World Cup and were beaten finalists four years ago.

Speaking before Japan were held to a 0-0 draw by Argentina in yesterday’s Group D contest, Kerr added: “They keep the ball for fun and have possession all over the pitch. We need to look at how their game against Argentina went.

“They’ve been in a transitional period. Senior players have retired and some young ones have come in. We need to put them under pressure. We need to be more physical. We need to stop them playing – that’s the big thing for us.”

It’s hard to recall a first-choice Scotland side playing as badly as they did in the long stretch to half-time during the defeat by England.

Phil Neville’s side looked as if they could do what they pleased down Scotland’s left and it was an unhappy afternoon for the entire back four until ex-Hibs full-back Kirsty Smith came on and provided respite with flying darts down the left wing. In midfield, Caroline Weir, Christie Murray and Kim Little were unable to get any meaningful purchase on the proceedings.

Yet, Claire Emslie’s first-ever World Cup goal threatened a shock. “The pleasing thing for me was how well we responded.” Kerr said. “The big question we have to ask is why we didn’t do it in the first. It might be because England took their foot off the gas.

“I have to give the players huge credit because they played one of the favourites to win this tournament and we came back in the second half.”