On the eve of its AFC Women’s Asian Cup quarterfinals clash against Thailand, Japan’s head coach Futoshi Ikeda was apprehensive of the conditions in Navi Mumbai. The head coach knew that it could be a challenge for his team to get accustomed to the conditions at a new venue after having played all its matches in the league stage in Pune.
But even as the temperature soared to 32 degrees Celsius on Sunday afternoon, defending champion Japan rode on a four-goal haul from Yuika Sugasawa to defeat Thailand 7-0 at the DY Patil Stadium and advance to the semifinals in style.
With Thailand head coach Miyo Okamoto and several of the team’s players missing due to COVID-19, Japan dominated the game from the beginning. Having a better ball possession, Japan forwards did not allow the Thai defenders to settle down.
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In the 15th minute, Japan had the opportunity to surge ahead after it was awarded a penalty, but its star player Mana Iwabuchi failed to convert it into a goal. The team did not lose hope, and in the 27th minute, substitute Sugasawa perfectly timed her run to get on the end of Yui Hasegawa’s pass and give the defending champion a much-needed lead. Already with the upper-hand, Japan doubled the lead in the added time of the first half with Hinata Miyazawa finding the net.
After the half-hour mark, one expected Thailand to regroup, but that did not happen as Japan scored its third goal. Sugasawa perfectly placed her pass for Rin Sumaida to score her first international goal.
Making the most of a lacklustre defence, Japan earned its fourth with Sugasawa converting a penalty in the 65th minute. Exactly 10 minutes later, Riko Ueki’s fine finish helped the team find its fifth goal.
Japan, clearly, was hungry for more.
Sugasawa completed her hattrick in the 80th minute and followed it up with her fourth goal of the day, three minutes later. With hardly any resistance from its opponent, Japan played like a champion and made sure that the change in venue did not have an impact on its performance.
- At DY Patil Stadium:Japan 7 (Yuika Sugasawa 27’, 65’, 80 ’ , 83 ’ ; Hiyana Miyazawa 45+2’; Rin Sumida 48’; Riko Ueki 75’) beat Thailand 0
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