Japan head coach Akira Nishino believes stopping Sadio Mane is the key to his side’s chances against Senegal.
The two sides clash in Ekaterinburg on Sunday, with both nations having won their opening games in Group H.
Mane was instrumental in Senegal’s 2-1 victory against Poland, who at times during the game doubled up on the Liverpool winger.
Nishino will have his own plans to cope with Mane and he said at his pre-match press conference: “It’s possible to stop him, but he has an influence on the other players and that’s what we are concerned about.”
Japan will face a different test to the one they encountered in their 2-1 win against Colombia, who played almost the entire match with 10 men after Carlos Sanchez’s third-minute red card.
Nishino knows his team must adapt to the speed, physicality and organisation of the Senegal players.
“For the past several days, I have been telling my players to gain five centimetres and five kilograms but it failed, so we need other measures,” he joked.
“Of course there is a ball, and through using the ball we are going to take on Senegal. If there’s a lot of physical contact then we will be at a disadvantage, therefore we will have to make some variations and then we can use our quickness.
“We need to move the ball well, so rather than physicality we have to use our brain to come up with some tactics and strategies.”
Mane disagreed with Nishino’s belief that just he makes Senegal tick, insisting the whole team is what makes them effective.
He said: “I think it’s going to be a good match, it’s very important for us and (we need) to be supportive. Our strength? It’s not Sadio Mane, it’s the team.”
Mane also revealed that he has been in contact with Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah while out in Russia, although Salah’s World Cup campaign with Egypt will not extend beyond the group phase after defeats in each of their two games so far.
“I sent a message to Salah. He really wanted this World Cup. At this moment it is normal that he is not good but he looks ahead,” he said.
Fancy news and features on the Reds on your Facebook timeline? Like our dedicated Liverpool page.