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'
|Southampton need three January signings, says Watson|
|Liverpool can make Champions League, says fanzine editor|
|Walsh: Hull clash crucial for Leicester|
|Toure, Aubameyang and Enyeama make shortlist for African gong|
|Docherty backs Chelsea to win two-horse race|
|Liverpool could benefit from Hyypia influence - Scales|
|Saudi Arabia name Asian Cup squad|
|Forty-year-old Cahill no problem for Postecoglou|
|Wenger criticism baffles Redknapp|
|Leicester must strengthen in window - Walsh|
|United not title contenders - Docherty|
|Koeman: Southampton youngsters will get a chance|
|Dyche empathises with Liverpool striker crisis|
|Cagliari turn to Zola|
|Rooney thanks Van Gaal for Christmas break|
|Cruzeiro offer Paulinho Tottenham exit chance|
|Carlisle´s wife grateful to Burnley|
|Katebe called up to Zambia AFCON squad|
|Cape Verde name AFCON squad|
|Finke names much-changed Cameroon squad|
|Grant omits World Cup troublemakers for AFCON|
|Blackpool striker Ranger goes AWOL|
|Allardyce relishing Mourinho meeting|
|Ashley fails to increase Rangers stake|
|Crystal Palace v Southampton: Koeman calls for focus|
|Warnock targeting striker in January|
|Chelsea v West Ham: Adrian vows visitors will attack|
|Heskey signs short-term deal at Bolton|
|Everton v Stoke City: Martinez eyes strong form|
|Juninho defends David Luiz|
|Burnley v Liverpool: Dyche defends Rodgers ahead of Turf Moor test|
|Arsenal v QPR: Wenger eyes festive momentum|
|Liverpool are growing in confidence, says Rodgers|
|Redknapp: Austin future could depend on survival|
|Martinez wants Everton consistency|
|Barca want Neymar until 2020, says agent|
|Jones undeterred by pressure of Liverpool starting role|
|Allardyce ´knows how to beat managers´ - Carroll|
|Jones playing for a new contract|
|China select Evergrande spine for Asian Cup|
|A-League Preview: Koren tips City to build|
|Khedira keen to fight for Real spot|
|Southampton confirm Elia deal|
|Cellino to remain as Leeds owner until after appeal|
|Manchester United v Newcastle United: Van Gaal demands domination|
|Van Gaal refuses to dismiss Bale speculation|
|Sunderland v Hull City: Bruce sure of Hull revival|
|Swansea City v Aston Villa: Lambert optimistic of away success|
|Agbonlahor red rescinded|
|Falcao depends on team-mates to perform - Van Gaal|
|Monk dismisses talk of Gomis move|
|West Brom v Manchester City: Pellegrini to experiment again|
|Xavi: I was ready for New York switch|
|Ibrahimovic fumes at awards snub|
|Irvine: No approaches for Berahino|
|Pearson determined to revive Leicester fortunes|
|League Two Preview: First host third as Wycombe meet Luton|
|League One Preview: Buoyant MK Dons eye more glory, Bristol City seek response|
|Championship Preview: Pritchard plotting to end Ipswich run, Bournemouth host Fulham|
|Kaboul place not guaranteed by captaincy - Pochettino|
|Koeman hopeful of Elia deal|
|Atletico president not ruling out Torres return|
|Swansea secure Oliveira signing|
|No excuses for Pellegrini|
|Walcott pace unaffected by injury|
|Former Real Madrid star Roberto Carlos backs Ronaldo for Ballon d´Or|
|Former PFA chairman Carlisle ´stable´ after serious incident|
|Balotelli remorse saved him from longer ban|
|Bayern midfielder Martinez ´on track´ with rehab|
|Pardew ´overjoyed´ at Gutierrez return|
|Spurs confirm Yedlin to join in January|
|Zeman sacked by Cagliari|
|Casillas: I´m going nowhere|
|Bruce demands McShane apology|
|Pulis would welcome Brighton talks|
|Buffon: Juve angry after Supercoppa loss|
|Arteta out until new year|
|Rangnick: Kampl deserves Dortmund switch|
|PFA offers support to Carlisle after serious incident|
|Napoli can mount title bid - Higuain|
|Cech´s agent urges Liverpool and Arsenal to make bid|
|Hart happy to be back to his best|
|Terry thrilled with ´revelation´ Matic|
|Perez rues ´unfair´ Tyne-Wear derby result|
|Khalfan Ibrahim returns from injury|
|Magath slams ´sensitive´ Fulham|
|´Limited´ attacking options inspire Postecoglou´s selections|
|Carlisle reportedly involved in serious incident|
|Primeira Liga Review: Braga leapfrog Guimaraes|
|Hughes upbeat despite Stoke defeat|