Nadeshiko Japan advances to Round of 16 despite 0-2 loss to England at the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019
20 June 2019
On Wednesday 19 June, the Nadeshiko Japan (Japan Women's National Team) faced the England Women’s National Team in their third group stage match of the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019.
In a match where Japan needed a victory to take the group lead, coach TAKAKURA Asako elected to start the same defence line from their match against Scotland, while placing NAKAJIMA Emi and SUGITA Hina as the defensive midfielders. ENDO Jun and KOBAYASHI Rikako were positioned in the flanks, with IWABUCHI Mana and YOKOYAMA Kumi playing up top, setting up an attack minded line-up. On the other hand, with the team only needing a draw to secure the top spot, England started off the match by showing great composure to move the ball around, while picking up their pace when the opportunity was presented to them.
In efforts to take the initiative of the match, Japan came out applying aggressive pressure from the front line. Their approach proved to be effective, as the tight pressure induced mistakes from the opposing defence line. The first shot of the match was taken by Yokoyama, when her teammates forced a turnover to set up the opportunity, but her attempt failed to capture the target. In the ninth minute, Yokoyama took a freekick she earned herself, launching a well struck shot from distance that was headed towards the upper left corner of the goal, but the English goalkeeper made a superb save to deny the opportunity.
England kept their poise against the aggressive approach taken by Japan and pounced on the opportunity created in the 14th minute. The scene came when Japan lost the ball from their build-up play, despite the pressure applied by Sugita, a through ball was sent behind the Japanese defence line, allowing the English striker, Ellen WHITE, to make a run into the box and score the opening goal.
While Japan continued to apply pressure to equalise the match, England took powerful shots from distance to keep the Japanese goalkeeper, YAMASHITA Ayaka, busy. Both teams created numbers of chances throughout the half, but with the excellent goalkeeping showcased at each end, the match entered halftime with England leading by a goal.
The second half saw England picking up the pace to show signs of dominance, but the Japanese defenders showed great persistency to keep the score within their reach. In order to “add more power to the offence,” coach Takakura brought in SUGASAWA Yuika for Yokoyama, and MIURA Narumi to replace Kobayashi in the 61st minute, shifting Nakajima back to her natural position in the right side. The substitution allowed Sugasawa to become the target player upfront to initiate the Japanese attacks. While England showed signs of fatigue, Japan kept their legs moving to seize control of the match. Despite creating numbers of goal scoring opportunities, Japan lacked quality in the final third to capitalise on their chances. In the 83rd minute, Sugasawa made a diving effort to connect with Sameshima’s cross, but her shot went just wide of the goal.
Moments later, in the 84th minute, England delivered another pass behind the Japanese defence, allowing White to score her second goal of the match to put the nail in the coffin of Japan. With time running out, the match ended with a final score of 0-2, ending the hopes for Japan to take the group lead.
Despite their loss, Japan finished in second place of Group D, after Scotland and Argentina drew their match 3-3.
The knockout stage is finally upon us, as the Nadeshiko Japan will take on the leader of Group E (either Netherlands or Canada) at the round of 16. The match is scheduled to take place at Rennes on Tuesday 25 June at 21:00 local time.
Coach and Players’ comments
TAKAKURA Asako, Coach of Nadeshiko Japan (Japan Women's National Team)
England is a very strong team and they showed great speed in their attacks. After conceding the first goal from our own mistake, our players started to play a bit too passively. Although we managed to pick up our pace in the second half, we weren’t able to convert our chances and conversely gave up a goal from a fast break. This match has allowed us to find out what we need to do, which style to take, and what we shouldn’t do as a team. Now that we are through with the group stage, we will give our utmost efforts to win through the knockout stage. We will reset our minds and prepare for our next match. Besides the fact that we got through the group stage, there is nothing we are satisfied about.
GK #18 YAMASHITA Ayaka (Nippon TV Beleza)
England didn’t come out as aggressively as we thought, so I was thinking if we can manage to keep them scoreless in the first half, we would have a shot in this match, but we ended up conceding a goal in the first half. The two goals we conceded were shots that should have been saved by the goalkeeper. My body coordination and decision makings were not at the level of our opponent’s goalkeeper, and I must improve on those aspects. While the rest of the team made great efforts to defend the goal, I feel like my performance held our team back. A clean sheet in the first half would have given more momentum to the team, and that was the reason of our loss today. The World Cup only comes around every four years, and this could be our final match with this team, so I will defend the goal with my life in our next match.
DF #3 SAMESHIMA Aya (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
This is a disappointing result, but our opponents clearly had the upper hand over us. Looking back on the goal scene, I felt like that was a typical way to concede a goal against an opponent with greater speed and power. We just had to be more careful, and it’s a play we must be aware of at the knockout stage. In that sense, we just need to stay positive and think that we were able to gain a great learning experience from this match. We are all hoping to make a deep run at this tournament, so we will continue to hold meetings to make our team better.
DF #4 KUMAGAI Saki (Olympique Lyonnais)
We conceded early in the first half and gave up another goal from the same play. As a defender, that is something we must acknowledge and make adjustments to. We also must address the fact that we weren’t able to convert our opportunities, especially in the second half where we created plenty of chances. For now, we will just have to except this result and prepare ourselves ahead of the knockout stage. We won’t be able to make drastic changes in the next five days, so we will focus on getting the 23 players on the same page and entering our next match as one team. Each detail will be important from here on, so we will make sure to go through the details as we prepare for the next match.
FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019
Tournament Dates: Fri. 7 June - Sun. 7 July 2019
Knockout Stage Round of 16:
Wed. 26 June 2019 04:00 (Japan Time)
vs Netherlands or Canada
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