PARIS • Coach Asako Takakura was forced to go on the defensive on Monday after being accused of setting Japan's stall out to defend against Argentina in their Women's World Cup opener.
The 2011 champions and 2015 finalists opened their campaign in disappointing fashion in Paris against the South Americans, ranked 30 places below them in the world rankings at 37th.
This was the first time Argentina had avoided defeat in a World Cup match and much of it had to do with the Nadeshiko's sterile possession.
Despite enjoying the majority of the ball, they failed to make their dominance count and created few chances, leading to criticism over Takakura's game plan.
However, the former Japan midfielder insisted playing it safe "was not in our mindset at all".
She told Kyodo News: "We don't set out to be defensive against any team. Of course, we have to keep a very solid defence, but we don't want to play defensive football."
However, Takakura admitted her players were too cautious in the first 45 minutes and bemoaned their lack of cutting edge, adding: "In the second half, they realised they had to be more offensive, so their tempo was faster and they attempted more shots at goal.
"However, we were not good enough to break down Argentina's defence today."
Her players agreed with the frank assessment, acknowledging they had produced a disjointed display.
"We were really a bit tight, and maybe it cost us the win," said defender Aya Sameshima, who is playing in her third World Cup.
The team must now go on the offensive in their final Group D games - against Scotland on Friday and England on June 19 - or risk an early flight home.
In Group E yesterday, substitute Jill Roord headed home a stoppage-time winner as the Netherlands finally broke down New Zealand's defence to emerge with a 1-0 triumph in Le Havre.
The European champions had almost 70 per cent of the ball but missed a myriad of chances.
Canada are joint top of the table after a 1-0 win over Cameroon in Montpellier on Monday, with Kadeisha Buchanan scoring with a header on the stroke of half-time.
But it was far from a convincing display from the fifth-ranked Canadians, who reached the quarter-finals at the last edition, as they managed just three efforts on target in the rainy weather.