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'
|Villarreal swoop for Bailly|
|CAF to consider alternatives to drawing lots|
|Ginola ´not giving up´ on FIFA presidency bid|
|Eto´o backs Sampdoria´s European dream|
|Chelsea v Manchester City: Doubts over Costa and Fabregas for title showdown|
|Sunderland v Burnley: Poyet calls for change in mentality|
|Serie A Preview: Crisis clubs meet as Parma head to Milan|
|West Brom v Tottenham: Pulis excited by McManaman arrival|
|Ginola campaign cancels crowdfunding page|
|Stoke City v QPR: Hughes hopeful of Diouf boost|
|Manchester United v Leicester City: Pearson has no time for fond memories|
|Thai consortium completes Wednesday purchase|
|Wigan exodus continues as Ramos joins Levante|
|Crystal Palace v Everton: Martinez hoping to reap Qatar training rewards|
|Liverpool v West Ham: Allardyce backs Carroll to shine on Anfield return|
|Strootman injury ´nothing serious´|
|Pearson backs Kramaric to adapt quickly|
|Hull City v Newcastle United: Carver calls for repeat KC Stadium rout|
|Rodgers not expecting immediate Sturridge impact|
|Palace land free agent Ameobi|
|Guinea progress past Mali in drawing of lots|
|Strootman requires surgery|
|Mathieu reveals details of Luis Enrique-Messi bust-up|
|New Inter signing Brozovic wants to be the next Frank Lampard|
|Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund: Visitors aim for fresh start|
|Eibar v Atletico Madrid: Capa up for a fight|
|Whelan and Crouch sign new Stoke deals|
|Mutch joins Palace from QPR|
|Eriksen delighted by League Cup double|
|Real Madrid v Real Sociedad: Moyes´ men out for rare Real double|
|Nolan impressed by Carroll attitude|
|Wenger: Gabriel will adapt to English football|
|Destro says yes to Milan move|
|Allardyce not expecting Sakho ban|
|Ribery sidelined for three Bayern Munich matches|
|Cahill refuses to rule out retirement after Asian Cup final|
|Pogba to leave Juve by end of next season - Agent|
|Martinez not planning Eto´o replacement|
|Blatter formally submits bid to remain FIFA president|
|Puncheon predicts ´great times´ for Palace|
|Donadoni has no plans to leave Parma and criticises Cassano|
|Mangala: My first season at City could have been better|
|UAE v Iraq: Rare podium finish on offer|
|Ryan spurred on by Australia´s 2011 heartbreak|
|Montella will not sell Cuadrado cheap|
|Mali, Guinea furious with tie-breaking procedure|
|Luis Enrique defends Neymar´s behaviour|
|Gabi: Referee lacked personality|
|Chile 3 USA 2: Gonzalez´s brace extends Americans´ pain|
|Franjic cleared of serious injury|
|Our progression was deserved - Pochettino|
|Ivory Coast´s tournament starts now - Renard|
|Allegri rejects Juve criticism|
|Atletico´s Arda Turan escapes red card after throwing boot at assistant referee|
|Atletico Madrid 2 Barcelona 3 (agg 2-4): Neymar double secures semi-final spot|
|Parma 0 Juventus 1: Morata late show wins it for visitors|
|Sheffield United 2 Tottenham 2 (agg 2-3): Pochettino books Wembley final|
|Ecuador dismiss Vizuete|
|Championship Preview: Middlesbrough out to continue run, Bournemouth seek response|
|Guinea 1 Mali 1: Lots to decide Group D runners-up|
|Cameroon 0 Ivory Coast 1: Gradel strike sends Renard´s men through|
|Lots to be drawn to decide AFCON qualifiers|
|Eredivisie Preview: De Boer warning for Ajax, leaders PSV host Willem II|
|Bundesliga Preview: Leaders Bayern and Wolfsburg kick off Ruckrunde|
|Howard boost for Everton|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Jardim plays down Monaco title hopes ahead of Lyon showdown|
|Costa charged by FA for alleged Can stamp|
|O´Keefe joins Cardiff|
|Dons teenager Alli in demand|
|Gabriel seals Arsenal switch|
|Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich: Guardiola eyes ´big step´ to Bundesliga title|
|Paris Saint-Germain v Rennes: Montanier seeks another upset in French capital|
|Martinez rules out panic buys|
|Gilardino targets Fiorentina goals|
|Milan agree Bocchetti loan|
|League Two Preview: Cambridge and Luton prepare to renew rivalries|
|Ronaldo hit with two-match ban|
|West Brom complete McManaman deal|
|Sullivan hits back in Sakho row|
|Richards: Cuadrado suited to Premier League|
|Figo to challenge for FIFA presidency|
|Inzaghi out to freshen up struggling Milan|
|Wigan agree a fee for Mckay|
|Carver eyes strong finish|
|Bowen cools talk of Stoke swoop for Sandro and Traore|
|Lazio-bound Morrison lands in Rome|
|Mourinho fined £25k for ´campaign´ claims|
|Mainz bring in Castillo|
|Villa: Lambert will not be sacked|
|Monk hopeful of adding new faces|
|Sainsbury ready to replace Franjic|
|Beckenbauer hopeful of Guardiola stay|
|Mourinho hits back at Costa critics|
|Rodriguez grateful for ´fundamental´ Ronaldo support|
|La Liga Preview: Real want revenge against Socieded|
|No Dallas move for Essien|
|Bale rubbishes United link, Ronaldo rift|
|Sahin in ´good shape´ for Bundesliga resumption|
|Rodgers slams Costa´s stamp collection|
|Under-fire Inzaghi urges patience|
|Rodgers: Courtois saved Chelsea|