Japan’s iron ladies miss Rio Olympic spot

A 6-1 demolition of Vietnam in Osaka was scant consolations for the 2011 World Cup winner, whose failure to reach this summer’s Olympics four years after taking silver in London comes as a major shock.

Shinobu Ohno of Japan shoots at goal during the AFC Women's Olympic Final Qualification Round match between Vietnam and Japan, at Kincho Stadium in Osaka, on Monday.   -  Getty Images

Former world champion Japan hit Vietnam for six on Monday but failed to qualify for the Rio Olympic women’s football tournament after other results went against it.

A 6-1 demolition of Vietnam in Osaka was scant consolations for the 2011 World Cup winner, whose failure to reach this summer’s Olympics four years after taking silver in London comes as a major shock.

China’s 1-0 victory over South Korea sealed Japan’s fate before a ball had been kicked in anger in the late match. The Chinese qualified along with Australia after the Matildas beat North Korea 2-1 in a bruising encounter.

Japanese hopes of qualifying had been hanging by a thread after the medal contenders were ambushed 2-1 by China last Friday.

An alarming slump in form by Japan’s ‘Nadeshiko’ — who are named after a frilly pink carnation — has sparked dismay, with former superstar Homare Sawa accusing the players of lacking heart and questioning their desire.

Japan famously beat the mighty United States to lift the World Cup in 2011, providing a symbol of the steely determination of a nation battling to recover from a deadly tsunami and the resulting nuclear crisis.

Norio Sasaki’s side then took silver behind the Americans at the 2012 Olympics in London and finished runners-up to their arch-rivals again at last year’s World Cup in Canada.

“The failure to qualify is my fault,” said Sasaki. “The players really did do their best. They played well today and hopefully this can serve as the start of a road to qualifying for the next Olympics.”