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Russian veteran Ignashevich: we will try
exploit Spanish defensive weaknesses    

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW (Xinhua) -- Veteran Russian defender Serguei Ignashevich believes his side’s best chance of beating Spain in their last 16 tie on July 1 is to try and take advantage of Spain’s poor defending in the current World Cup.

Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea has been at the center of criticism of a Spanish side that has conceded five goals in their group matches and defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal have both looked to be below their best.

Russia lost their last group game 3-0 to Uruguay and that defeat means they will face Spain in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow with 81,000 fans getting behind them. “We will take advantage of the weakness Spain showed in the first stage,” Ignashevich said. “Spain defended very high up the pitch and left spaces. Morocco were able to exploit that (in a 2-2 draw) and I hope we can do as well,” he said from the Russian training center close to Moscow.

Ignashevich warned that although it was hard to say Spain had any star players; they “play as a team.”

“Diego Costa isn’t their only threat, all of their forwards are dangerous: when he is tired, Rodrigo comes on and also Aspas, who is different from the other two. That makes our job much more difficult because you can’t get used to one style of play,” the 38-year-old said.

Finally Ignashevich gave his support to the controversial VAR system in use in Russia, saying that both defenders and attackers have to be more careful with the new system in place.



Japan looking to make the ball do the running in heat of Volgograd Arena

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- The coach of the Japanese national team, Akira Nishino wants his players to make the ball do the work when they play Poland in the Volgograd Arena in their final Group H game in the 2018 World Cup.

A draw for Japan against a Polish side with nothing to play for would be enough to make them the only Asian side in the last 16 of the World Cup for the second time in eight years, but with the game scheduled to kick off at 5pm local time, temperatures of over 30 degrees centigrade and high humidity are likely to be important factors.

“When I landed on Tuesday, I was surprised at how humid it was, but I don’t think the team’s conditions is going to be affected much by that,” Nishino said in his pre-game press conference on Wednesday.

The Japan coach said he would assess the fitness of his squad in training, but added they were not tired after a 2-1 win against Colombia and a 2-2 draw with Senegal.

“In domestic competition sides tend to cover 110 or 120 km... Here we will have to coordinate our moves and not waste energy.”

“The ball doesn’t get tired, so we will have to use it as effectively as possible,” he commented.

Nishino said the fact Poland were only playing for pride did not make them less dangerous.

“There is no such thing as an easy game I am sure Poland will want to play for pride and (Robert) Lewandowski will come out looking to score a goal... We don’t think Poland will be easy rivals, they qualified from a tough group,” he insisted.

“We want to keep hold of the ball and continue with our Japanese style of football. We want to continue, so we will move the ball, move ourselves and look to attack at speed,” he concluded. 


Japan looking to maintain Asian presence at 2018 World Cup

By Paul Giblin VOLGODRAD Russia (Xinhua) -- Japan will be the only Asian side to qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup finals if they take a point from Poland in the Volgograd Arena on Thursday afternoon.

If they succeed they will be the first Asian team to reach the second stage of the tournament since they did so in 2010 in South Africa.

Japan are the only Asian side to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup finals since they and South Korea did so when they hosted the tournament in 2002.

Japan have impressed so far in Russia with a 2-1 win over Colombia and a 2-2 draw in an entertaining match against Senegal.

They will be favorites against Poland, who have lost their two matches and have no chance of reaching the last 16. “Although we earned four points in two matches, we haven’t accomplished anything yet. The next match will be the deciding match. We must go into the game with the aim of getting all three points and [focusing] our performance,” Japan captain, Makoto Hasebe said.

Hasebe insists it would be dangerous for Japan to be over-confident against the Poles. “I don’t think we can go into the game looking for a draw,” he said, explaining that a win would help continue their momentum for a last-16 tie against Belgium or England.

Japan have only played Poland twice in the last 22 years, beating them 5-0 in February 1996 and 2-0 in March 2002, but they will be wary of the fact they have failed to score in four of their last World Cup games against European opposition. The last time they scored against European opponents was in a 3-1 win over Denmark in 2010.

Meanwhile Poland winger, Kamil Grosiki admits their time in Russia has been a struggle, but they must try and recover some pride in their final game after losing 2-1 to Senegal, before being totally outplayed by the Colombians.

“We couldn’t even get the ball off Colombia, never mind counter against them. We’ve disappointed everyone, including ourselves. We came here with high hopes and huge dreams. Now we’re playing the last match just for honor,” Grosiki said.

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