Football: Japan coach targets Olympics after World Cup defeat

Head coach Norio Sasaki of Japan walks out to the pitch to take on the United States in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015.
Head coach Norio Sasaki of Japan walks out to the pitch to take on the United States in the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

VANCOUVER (AFP) - Japan coach Norio Sasaki said the Nadeshiko would now be focusing on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics after losing their Women's World Cup title.

Japan were 4-0 down after just over a quarter of an hour's action in Vancouver before falling 5-2 to the United States who won the title for a record third time after 1991 and 1999.

It was the third major championship final between the two nations, with Japan winning the 2011 World Cup on penalties and the US winning Olympic gold.

 

"Only two teams from Asia can go to the Olympics, so it will be tough," said Sasaki, whose challengers include World Cup rivals Australia, South Korea and China, who all reached the knockout rounds in Canada.

Despite the loss of the title they became the first Asian team to win in 2011, and Sasaki vowed: "This is not the end of soccer in Japan.

"We will work hard to go to Rio and also the East Asia Cup will be held in less than a month so we need to start preparations tomorrow (Monday) and we need to keep challenging ourselves."

Sasaki said that despite the disappointment their game could only improve by playing tough games like against the United States.

"It is good for our future development, playing against the best teams like the United States who have such a depth of players.

"We need to develop our strategies and tactics to battle against them; it is a challenge to aspire to.

"We need to work on our technical skills otherwise our ranking might go down," he added of his fourth-ranked team.

"What is positive is that we made the final and women's football in Japan is getting a lot of attention. I hope that more and more girls will be attracted to soccer so that we can improve the level.

"In the US a lot of girls are registered in soccer programmes that's not the case in Japan."

The World Cup served as a European qualifier for the 2016 Olympics. Germany and France booked their tickets to Rio as two of the three Europeans teams after reaching the semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively.