“I want to show the world Japan’s football” Interview with Coach Takakura (1st half) - FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019
14 May 2019
The FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 will kick off on Friday 7 June. Ahead of the big tournament, we interviewed Coach TAKAKURA Asako of the Nadeshiko Japan (Japan Women’s National Team) on her approach to build a team and the football style she strives for.
――How do you feel about the team’s improvements since launching the team in 2016?
Takakura When we announced our very first team, we made it clear that, “We need competition among players, and none of the players are guaranteed to be in the squad a year from now.” As a matter of fact, we called up many players with great potential, within the past three years. Players become better by playing matches, so we didn’t hesitate to give players who are still work in progress to play in our matches. In our early days, we struggled to win matches, but I knew it was a necessary process in order to strengthen the team in the long run, so that is why I wasn't worried about the results.
――What were the reasons behind the team’s struggle?
Takakura We were utilising variety of players, so naturally we had difficulties in our combinations. It wasn’t delightful to be losing matches, but I strongly believed that it was a necessary process we had to take in order to build the team. That is why even in times where we couldn’t win matches, I didn’t change my approach.
――Winning the AFC Women's Asian Cup in 2018 was a turning point for you and the team?
Takakura After being appointed as the coach, I knew the Women's Asian Cup will be a big target for us, especially with it being the qualifiers for the world cup. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy task, but the players played very hard, showed their persistency, and fought until the very end. Although the team was still work in progress, winning the title gave us great confidence moving forward, and that tournament really united our team as one.
――You’ve fought through many tours abroad to build the team, what is the strengths of Japanese football?
Takakura We were able to gain great experience from our tours conducted in February and April. We faced teams that are striving to win the world title, and through our matches against such teams, we were able to realise the unique qualities our team possess. There are times our team struggle against explosive power showcased by the opponents, but we are capable of getting the entire team involved to play high-quality football to create chances. While many of the powerhouses consists football styles that take great emphasis on sending simple crosses and creating opportunities from individual efforts, we take a more collective approach and fight as a team. Our style is capable of scoring goals from unique ball movements and defend the goal with collective efforts other teams can’t showcase. Not many teams possess the quality we have, so that is why I want to show the world Japan’s football.
――How will you prepare the team ahead of the world cup?
Takakura Every country is now devoting lots of energy to develop their women’s football team, and we are seeing great growths everywhere. That is why this tournament will not be easy. When facing teams that are built around their physical strengths, we must play smart and execute our combinations perfectly. How we evade the raw strengths of our opponents will play a key role in our matches. Rather than facing our opponents head-to-head, we must showcase a style of football that throws off the timing of our opponents. If we can seek out such style as a team, it will be huge for us. While considering the tournament’s atmosphere and the level of our opponents, I hope to convey such approach to the team ahead of the tournament.
――In the most recent tour to Europe, it was evident that your ball movements were able to cancel out the disadvantage in physical strengths. Is that something you are looking to do more?
Takakura Exactly. Every team has a strong emphasis in their defence, and many teams are showing better organisation then before. The pressure is often applied from the front line and the quality of their approaches can be very critical. How we move the ball after forcing a turnover will play a huge role, and if we can’t connect our passes smoothly, we will be forced to be in the defensive end for a long time. If we can carry the ball up into the opposing half, our creativity to penetrate the goal area, and our techniques and combinations can be very difficult to defend against. Although defence is a crucial part of our game, if we can take a more aggressive approach, I believe that our attacking third can score more goals. We haven’t been spending much time on our set-plays thus far, but we should be seeing more goals scored from set-plays from now on. Even when we concede goals, I want to build a team that can stay confident in their abilities and attack aggressively to score back goals.
FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019
Tournament Dates: Fri. 7 June - Sun. 7 July 2019
Tue. 11 June 2019 01:00 (Japan time)
vs Argentina Women's National Team
Fri. 14 June 2019 22:00 (Japan time)
vs Scotland Women's National Team
Thu. 20 June 2019 04:00 (Japan time)
vs England Women's National Team
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