Japan arrived at the Women’s World Cup with a mission to put Nadeshiko football back on the global map and coach Futoshi Ikeda felt his side had done so despite Friday’s quarterfinal exit at the hands of Sweden.
World Cup winner in 2011 and runner-up to the United States four years later, Japan slumped out in the last 16 in the 2015 tournament and lost to the Swedes in the quarterfinals at its home Olympics in 2021.
“We managed to get through to this stage by winning all our matches,” Ikeda told reporters.
“And I saw the team grow, the players grew at this World Cup, and we were able to demonstrate Japan’s Nadeshiko football on the global stage. That’s a fact.
“We also lost this match, that’s also a fact, but we have to assess this World Cup and the work the players have done positively. I’m proud.”
The young Japanese team had set the tournament alight with its bright and breezy football on the way to the last eight, the highlight being its 4-0 thrashing of Spain in its final group match.
It hit a roadblock at Eden Park on Friday in the shape of the Swedes, who shut down its midfield for more than an hour with a suffocating press and then held on for a 2-1 win when Japan finally found its rhythm in the latter stages.
“The players fought hard until the end,” Ikeda added. “They gave everything that they had. The players should lift their chins up and be proud of what they did here.”
Asked what he told his players after the game, Ikeda again returned to the theme of the revival of the women’s game in Japan.
“Of course, afterwards I talked about this World Cup, but more than that, I talked about the fact that Nadeshiko football is still alive,” he said.
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