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'
|Weinzierl excited for first Ruhr derby|
|Phelan urges Hull to take cup form into Premier League|
|No problem with Kompany - Guardiola|
|Mkhitaryan not injured but still needs time, says Mourinho|
|Moyes claims Sunderland are improving|
|Pochettino: Title race could go to final day|
|Guardiola: Real Madrid don´t need a manager like me|
|Tuchel eager for ´cup final´ atmosphere in Ruhr derby|
|Conte insists title talk is dangerous|
|Dancing panda Patrice Evra can´t bear to see racism go unchallenged|
|Everton boss Koeman would relish Rooney return|
|Benteke threat worries Klopp|
|James backs Southgate for full-time England job|
|Ancelotti unconcerned by Lewandowski, Muller droughts|
|Bilic frustrated by crowd trouble as London Stadium ´felt like home´|
|Luis Enrique defends Barcelona in LaLiga disciplinary row|
|Premier League title fight will go to the wire - Cech|
|Simeone ignoring Premier League rumours|
|Klopp: I like Ferguson, is that allowed?|
|Begovic claims Chelsea did not rub in Mourinho win|
|´Genius´ Ronaldo is not anxious - Zidane|
|Allegri defends Higuain´s form ahead of Napoli return|
|Wenger hopes West Ham act to avoid stadium ban|
|Bilic credits players for West Ham´s revival|
|Pardew urges concentration to combat in-form Liverpool|
|Howe wants Cherries´ away form to blossom|
|Scholl slams Golden Boy Sanches|
|Pulis signs contract extension at West Brom|
|Ballon d´Oh! Wenger highlights disdain for award with Ozil gaffe|
|Liverpool must be ´angry´ to beat teams at the bottom - Can|
|Perez blow for Arsenal with striker facing eight weeks out|
|Neymar the victim of a media campaign - Rafinha|
|Cannavaro dreams of Real Madrid job|
|Alonso lauds Klopp for embracing Liverpool culture|
|Barcelona report LaLiga chief Tebas to sports court|
|MLS Review: Late goal from Valdez sees Sounders through, Impact rout DC|
|Saul committed to Simeone and Atletico|
|Ronaldo deserves to win Ballon d´Or - Cannavaro|
|Shaw eager to earn Mourinho´s trust at United|
|Neymar playing for Barca because of Messi, says father|
|Jardim questions Falcao´s stints at United and Chelsea|
|Berardi will get Italy call when system changes - Ventura|
|Lucas Vazquez delighted by ´dream´ Madrid deal|
|Scottish FA chief backs cross-border competition|
|Dortmund need Reus - Aubameyang|
|Lamela eyeing new Spurs deal|
|Tighter Watford matches are a coincidence, says Mazzarri|
|Karanka: We saved Boro from League One|
|Police investigate homophobic leaflet at West Ham|
|Spain could recall Villa, reveals Lopetegui|
|Hughes backs Bony to break Stoke duck|
|Sarri will greet Higuain ´like a son who made him angry´|
|Robben receives Netherlands recall|
|Dyche considering Gray recall for Burnley|
|Zidane was behind one of my best seasons, says Ronaldo|
|Schweinsteiger absent from United squad photo|
|Emery emphasises Thiago Silva´s importance amid Juve links|
|Ferguson: Leicester will make deep Champions League run|
|Ranieri hails ´special´ Ballon d´Or nominations for Vardy and Mahrez|
|Emery: PSG cannot rely solely on Cavani goals|
|Mourinho can match Guardiola, insists Ferguson|
|Ferguson hails Klopp: Liverpool are strong title contenders now|
|Bayern optimistic over Lewandowski renewal|
|Zubizarreta appointment confirmed by Marseille|
|Clichy: Things will click into place for Manchester City|
|Chiellini: Juventus wanted to send a message|
|Gabigol´s time will come - De Boer|
|Ronaldo: Messi and I are not friends - but we respect each other|
|Earthquake halts play in Serie A game between Pescara and Atalanta|
|Mourinho charged over Taylor comments|
|Ronaldo: I need my haters|
|Badstuber hopeful injury woes behind him|
|Kroos did not want to be rested, insists Zidane|
|Rojo was phenomenal - Mourinho|
|Seven arrests made after West Ham - Chelsea fan clashes|
|Florenzi injury blow for Roma|
|MLS Review: Galaxy, Toronto into semis|
|Beister: Victory move surprised people|
|Bilic: Cup run will help in Premier League|
|Pjaca out for up to three weeks|
|Trophies still the focus for Guardiola|
|Mignolet wants ´fair´ Karius battle|
|Ancelotti impressed by motivated Bayern|
|West Ham ´unreservedly condemn´ crowd trouble|
|Allegri praises strike duo after win over Sampdoria|
|De Boer praises two-goal Icardi after vital win|
|Chelsea were ´unlucky´ with missed chances, insists Conte|
|Mourinho: I´ve never had fans like these|
|Nacho´s goal better than my Champions League final volley - Zidane|
|Borussia Dortmund 1 Union Berlin 1 (aet, 3-0 pens): Weidenfeller shootout heroics seal progress|
|Bilic: Crowd trouble distracts from great West Ham win|
|Kompany told me he couldn´t play anymore - Guardiola|
|Liverpool and Manchester United handed home quarter-finals|
|Inter 2 Torino 1: Icardi double alleviates pressure on De Boer|
|Manchester United 1 Manchester City 0: Mata extends Guardiola´s winless run|
|West Ham 2 Chelsea 1: Crowd trouble tarnishes Hammers´ route to quarter-finals|
|Cultural Leonesa 1 Real Madrid 7: Morata and Asensio star in BBC´s absence|
|Bayern Munich 3 Augsburg 1: Green´s first goal sends holders through|
|Juventus 4 Sampdoria 1: Rapid start sets champions on their way|
|Crafty Suarez is world´s best striker - Godin|
|Mancini: Balotelli has wasted years but can bounce back|
|Rami rejected ´risky´ PSG move|
|Neymar would have cost PSG €430m, claims father|
|Sacchi warns Bayern players over Ancelotti temper|
|Valencia ´pleased´ with RFEF bottle ruling|
|Mourinho apologises to Utd fans for Chelsea thrashing|
|Barcelona lash out at ´totally reprehensible´ RFEF comments|
|Jacob leaves Marseille amid rumours of Zubizarreta appointment|
|Lavezzi added to Argentina squad as Dybala drops out|
|Del Bosque: Mourinho had a point on Conte|
|N´Zonzi in talks over Sevilla extension|
|Allardyce successor ´will not be a mercenary´ - Glenn|
|Aubameyang like a rocket, Lewandowski perfect - Riedle|
|RFEF fines Valencia, warns Barca over bottle incident|
|Wenger tells Iwobi to improve his finishing|
|Barcelona without Mathieu for three weeks|
|Kimmich draws inspiration from Xavi|
|Vazquez signs new Madrid deal|
|Higuain the best striker in the world - Nedved|
|Wolfsburg regret De Bruyne, Perisic sales|
|Parejo slams Neymar for ´inciting´ Valencia fans|
|Gundogan predicts ´very lively´ Manchester derby|
|Luis Enrique satisfied with Supercopa workout|
|Messi could join Newell´s after World Cup - Maxi Rodriguez|
|Ibrahimovic wants United to be the boss of City|
|Schmidt on the bus as Lotte book ticket for next round|
|Pogba still adapting to Premier League, says Mourinho|
|Southgate hails influence of demoted Rooney|
|Lille ready to heap more pressure on PSG as Corchia dreams big|
|I´m among top 20 LaLiga coaches, jokes Luis Enrique|
|Brattan earns Socceroos call-up|
|Pochettino pleased with Janssen|
|Klopp never questioned Sturridge quality|
|Barcelona downed by Espanyol in Supercopa|
|Heavy Milan defeat ´just a bump in the road´ - Montella|
|Pochettino wanted Liverpool debutant sent off|
|Klopp happy to entertain as Liverpool youngsters earn their spurs|
|Leverkusen dumped out by 10-man minnows|