Japan, who emerged out of Group C in first place, is ranked fourth in the world. The reigning World Cup champions play disciplined defense and have a host of attacking talent, but Japan — like the U.S. — has not yet played their best soccer. Their attack has struggled since Kozue Ando went down just 30 minutes into the tournament. (They obviously need to get the ball to former Seattle Reign midfielder Naho Kawasumi more often.)
Japan is skilled at moving the ball around the field and finding open space, but only maintained 45% of possession against Switzerland. Their attack goes through midfielder and captain Aya Miyama. The two-time Asia Player of the Year is quick to make runs into space and is quite dangerous on set pieces. Japan will need Miyama and Mizuho Sakaguchi to hold down the midfield and build the attack against a Netherlands side that has only allowed two goals so far in the tournament.
The Netherlands, ranked 12th by FIFA, advanced to the Round of 16 in their first-ever Women's World Cup after finishing third in Group A. They have some dangerous attacking players, including the 18-year-old Vivianne Miedema and her counterpart up top, Lieke Martens. While Miedema has been relatively quiet, she started to find her rhythm in their last match against Canada, something that should worry Japan.
Like Japan, the Netherlands will look to their central midfield to control the flow of the game. To do that, they'll rely on Sherida Spitse, who at 25 years old already has 106 appearances with the national team. The Netherlands prefer to play compact in the attack, and Spitse will be key to helping them move the ball quickly to create more chances. If Japan's midfield continues to struggle, Spitse could be the Netherlands best chance to dominate.
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