June 23, 2018 / 3:52 PM / 4 months ago

It's more than Japan brains vs. Senegal brawn, says Cisse

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Senegal are not unduly worried about taking on Japan in Sunday’s Group H clash despite the Asians possessing plenty of technical quality across the pitch, the African team’s coach Aliou Cisse said on Saturday.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Senegal Training - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 23, 2018 Senegal's Cheikhou Kouyate, Khadim N'Diaye and teammates during training REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

Japan defeated 10-man Colombia 2-1 in their opening game, a surprise win that has given Akira Nishino’s side a good chance of progressing to the last-16 for only the third time.

“Yes, they have fought hard to be here and their technical ability is above average,” Cisse, whose side joined Japan at the top of the group with a 2-1 win over Poland, told reporters.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Senegal Training - Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg, Russia - June 23, 2018 Senegal coach Aliou Cisse during training REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge

“They have passing quality and put pressure on defensively. We have studied them, it will be a tough match... (but) there is nothing that worries me about the Japan team.”

The match, which has been billed as one between Senegal’s physicality and Japan’s tactical nous, will see the winner reach six points and take a huge step towards qualifying for the knockout stages.

Yet Cisse, who captained the 2002 Senegal team that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in their only previous appearance, did not agree that the battle would just be between brains and brawn.

“The physical quality of Senegal versus the technical quality of Japan... I won’t describe it that way,” the 42-year-old said.

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“They know how to put pressure on players who have the ball so you have to be strong. We also have individuals with higher than average technical qualities and we’ll prove it.

“It will be a hard-fought match. The team that wins will nearly qualify. That is the main challenge.”

Cisse asked his team to emulate the achievements of their celebrated 2002 predecessors, a team he described as “beautiful”.

“We want to do at least as well as the 2002 generation... That was a beautiful generation and this is too. It’s only by winning matches that we can do better than them.”

Editing by Ian Chadband

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