Connect with us


Japan coach tells team to ‘be proud’ after World Cup exit

Japan coach Futoshi Ikeda said his team could take pride in their run at the Women’s World Cup despite being knocked out in the quarter-finals in a 2-1 defeat by Sweden on Friday.

The Nadeshiko had been touted as candidates to go all the way after cruising through the group stage with three wins out of three, including a 4-0 demolition of Spain, before seeing off Norway in the last 16.

A win over Sweden in Auckland would have set up another meeting with Spain, but Ikeda’s side fell short at Eden Park, going two goals down early in the second half before attempting a late comeback.

“We got this far and the players have grown during this World Cup. They’ve shown what they can do on the world stage,” Ikeda said.

“We lost, but we have to assess positively what the players did. I am proud that we got here.”

Japan fell behind for the first time at the tournament when Amanda Ilestedt gave Sweden the lead just after the half-hour mark.

It appeared to be game over when Filippa Angeldal converted a 52nd-minute penalty to double Sweden’s advantage, but Japan did rally.

Substitute Riko Ueki missed a penalty and Aoba Fujino saw a free-kick hit the bar, strike Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic on the back and rebound onto the post.

They did then pull a goal back through Honoka Hayashi to spark a late rally into 10 minutes of added time, but they could not force an equaliser.

The Japanese players were distraught at full time and many were in tears as they passed reporters on their way back to the dressing room.

However, Ikeda sought to remain positive in defeat.

“The players fought really hard in all the games up to today. They gave everything,” he said.

“We had a lot of people supporting us today. The players should keep their chins up and be proud of what they did here.”

Several members of Ikeda’s squad were appearing at their first World Cup, including the 19-year-old Fujino and the 23-year-old Hinata Miyazawa.

The latter, who has scored five goals at this tournament, was one of several members of Japan’s squad who featured in the team that won the Under-20 World Cup in 2018.

“We want these young players to make the Nadeshiko stronger, but we also need the other players to become leaders on the pitch,” said the coach.

It remains to be seen how much longer captain Saki Kumagai, the sole survivor from the 2011 final, remains part of the team. She will turn 33 later this year.

Japan, who were also knocked out of the Tokyo Olympics in the quarter-finals by Sweden, will now turn their thoughts to securing a place at next year’s Games in Paris.

“It is hard to talk now about the future, but these young players now have experience of the world stage and of how tough these games are,” Ikeda added.

“They have to use this experience going into the Olympics.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


World Cup News


More in Football