RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AFP) - Denmark coach Morten Olsen has voiced his surprise that Japan opted to change their tactical approach just before the World Cup, but admitted the move has been successful.
Olsen was struck by the difference between the high-tempo pressing game Japan played in a friendly against the Netherlands last year, when they lost 3-0 after dominating for the first hour, and the more cautious approach in their 1-0 defeat by the Dutch in their second Group E match here.
"They are a little more defensive, that is right," Olsen said ahead of his side's must-win meeting with the Japanese here on Thursday evening.
"They played with high pressure then and they play with low pressure now."
The switch has not affected Olsen's admiration for Japan's quality and he knows his injury-hit squad face a tough battle to overcome opponents who only need a draw to reach the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time on foreign soil.
"I said before the tournament that Japan was one of the teams that could surprise people who know nothing about Asian football," Olsen said.
"They fight for each other and the team. You saw the Dutch team, with all the quality that they have, they had many problems against Japan.
"But my team can perform better than we have done so far and that is what we will need to do."
Asked to sum up his mood going into the match, Olsen replied: "I'm excited but not nervous.
"If you are not excited before a match like this you should stop as a coach.
"I trust my team but even if have a good day we can still lose. We hope for a lucky punch."
Olsen would not be drawn on whether Denmark's height advantage could make the difference, as has been widely predicted in the build-up to the match.
Per Kroldrup, the Fiorentina defender who is expected to replace the suspended Simon Kjaer, was more forthcoming.
"Yes, that's something we hope we can benefit from, that we are perhaps stronger than the Japanese in the air," he said.
Olsen has rubbished suggestions that his squad, one of the oldest in the tournament, has passed its peak.
Pointing at the 32-year-old former Chelsea winger, Jesper Gronkjaer, Olsen asked: "What's 32? He can still play for eight years. If a player is fit and not tired of playing it is fantastic.
"They have experience. They have played in European cups, World Cups, they know each other, as human beings as well as their strengths and weaknesses as players.
"They are quality players because they have been able to keep a high level for a long time."
Olsen has described Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner as doubtful for the match because of a groin injury which restricts his training to alternate days.
It would be a major surprise however if Bendtner did not start a match in which Denmark will be aiming to maintain the country's proud record of always progressing beyond the first round when they make it World Cup finals.
|9||J. Tomasson||81' 81'|
|Coach: M. Olsen|
for M. Jørgensen 34'
for P. Krøldrup 56'
for T. Kahlenberg 63'
|Robben speaks out on injury fears|
|Fiorentina 0 AC Milan 0: Ilicic misses penalty on Montella´s return|
|Gisdol replaces Labbadia at Hamburg|
|Ibrahimovic threatened me over Pogba deal - Raiola|
|Balotelli could make Nice return against Krasnodar|
|Southampton deserved to win – Bilic|
|Podolski takes aim at Mourinho over Schweinsteiger treatment|
|Atletico midfielder Augusto suffers ACL injury|
|Sagna: More to Aguero than goals|
|Errors are urgent matter for Schalke - Weinzierl|
|Puel delighted with sublime Southampton second half|
|Simeone praises ´decisive´ Gameiro|
|Noble: West Ham can´t get any worse|
|Pjanic: I will play wherever Allegri needs me|
|West Ham 0 Southampton 3: Defensive woes pile pressure on Bilic|
|Kondogbia makes the same mistakes often – De Boer|
|Gray backed by Dyche after ban for abusive social media posts|
|Gabriel needs time to get used to Serie A - Ausilio|
|Atletico Madrid´s Gimenez and Augusto doubts for Bayern Munich clash|
|Atletico Madrid 1 Deportivo La Coruna 0: Griezmann downs 10-man Depor|
|Angry Spalletti slams Roma players´ attitude|
|Liverpool have unbelievable quality - Milner|
|Simeone´s son Giovanni scores first Serie A goal|
|Ivanovic: Chelsea let Conte down|
|Inter 1 Bologna 1: Battling Bologna end Inter streak|
|Guardiola: Top-four finish very tough for Man City|
|Rodgers expecting tough test against City and Aguero|
|Zamparini admits Balotelli interested Palermo|
|Former Swansea, Arsenal great Mel Charles dies|
|Asamoah, Rugani ruled out for up to seven weeks|
|Totti reaches 250 Serie A goals in Roma defeat|
|Alves makes LaLiga history as Valencia see off Leganes|
|Guardiola rues De Bruyne injury as Man City await scan|
|Las Palmas draw could prove costly, admits Morata|
|Gabriel explains choosing Inter over Juventus|
|Hamburg dismiss Labbadia|
|West Ham players expect Payet´s free-kick magic - Antonio|
|Man City must tell Guardiola to stop, says Toure´s agent|
|Hamsik thrilled to reach 100 Napoli goals|
|Zabaleta warns Man City over Celtic backlash|
|MLS Review: Red Bulls, Toronto into play-offs|
|´We were unlucky´ - Bale|
|Guardiola keen for Spurs test|
|Rodgers: I never fell out with Sterling|
|Wenger hails ´different´ Walcott|
|Mazzarri backs Deeney for England call-up|
|Mamelodi Sundowns and Zamalek reach CAF Champions League final|
|Benzema and Morata can play together - Zidane|
|Hummels plays down injury fears|
|Las Palmas 2 Real Madrid 2: Zidane´s men held again|
|Stones benefited from Moyes´ Everton exit, says Duffy|
|Allegri unconcerned by scrappy win|
|Montella demands Milan improvement|
|Ancelotti praises Thiago after Hamburg victory|
|Conte demands better attitude from Chelsea|
|Wenger hails stylish Arsenal display|
|Moreno the unlikely subject of Klopp´s praise|
|Walcott: We wanted it more than Chelsea|
|Phelan has ´no qualms´ over another handball red card|
|Arsenal 3 Chelsea 0: Sanchez, Walcott and Ozil pile on misery for Conte|
|That was how football should be - Klopp on Hull thrashing|
|Luis Enrique plans to keep Sergi Roberto on his toes|
|Karanka draws hope from Middlesbrough´s second half|
|Stoke is stitched into my body – Pulis|
|Palermo 0 Juventus 1: Own goal helps champions stay top|
|Hughes laments two ´stolen´ points|
|Wilshere can be a brilliant player for Bournemouth, says Howe|
|Defoe rues Sunderland collapse against Palace|
|Tottenham must be more clinical - Pochettino|
|Everton were second best, says Koeman|
|Benteke: I knew a chance was coming|
|Ranieri wants answers from Leicester players after Old Trafford thrashing|
|Board can call me if they want to talk - Guidolin|
|Sterling hails Guardiola´s impact|
|Sergi Roberto revelling in new role|
|Guardiola wants Aguero improvement despite scoring streak|
|Mourinho demands more from star man Pogba|
|Sporting Gijon 0 Barcelona 5: No Messi, no problem for ruthless champions|
|Stoke City 1 West Brom 1: Rondon snatches point as Pulis reaches 1000 games|
|Sunderland 2 Crystal Palace 3: Benteke´s late header stuns Black Cats|
|Swansea City 1 Manchester City 3: Aguero at the double for Guardiola´s perfect 10|
|Bournemouth 1 Everton 0: Stanislas wonder strike ends Koeman´s unbeaten start|
|Liverpool 5 Hull City 1: Coutinho stunner caps easy win|
|Middlesbrough 1 Tottenham 2: Son shines for Spurs|
|Hamburg 0 Bayern Munich 1: Late Kimmich goal maintains Bayern´s perfect start|
|Bayern facing defensive headache after Hummels limps off at Hamburg|
|Pogba and Mata delighted by United response|
|Vardy and Mahrez were rested for Porto, Ranieri admits|
|Mourinho completely trusts dropped Rooney|
|I beat Usain Bolt in a race - Bolasie|
|Juventus still Scudetto favourites - De Boer|
|Manchester United 4 Leicester City 1: Rooney watches on as Pogba inspires Red Devils demolition|
|Robben and Ribery are like Messi, claims Helmer|
|Pochettino hints at Vertonghen renewal|
|Robben´s style makes him an injury risk - Bayern fitness coach|
|Liverpool refuse to comment on Sakho´s social media outburst|
|Rooney dropped for Leicester City clash|
|Messi injury doesn´t matter to Barcelona - Abelardo|
|Thiago Silva worried by PSG form|
|Mourinho describes Wenger relationship as ´civilised´|
|Milito: Inter are no one-man team|
|Bilic delays naming daughter due to West Ham worries|
|Fernandinho hails ´intelligent´ De Bruyne|
|Matuidi: This season toughest for PSG|
|New York City 4 Chicago Fire 1: Villa nets twice in win|
|Pjaca not Morata - Allegri|
|Guardiola keen for Kolarov extension|
|England criticism changed Rooney - Mourinho|
|Gotze detractors don´t surprise Tuchel|
|Wenger laments missing out on Costa|
|Emery deflects blame from PSG players after Toulouse defeat|
|Guidolin: It´s not possible to beat Manchester City if you don´t play well|
|Mourinho prepared to bench Rooney|
|Fitness fears over Aubameyang with Real Madrid looming|