Takakura: We did it the Japanese way
Amman: AFC Women’s Asian Cup-winning head coach Asako Takakura paid tribute to her players after their 1-0 triumph over Australia, as her belief in Japan’s football philosophy was vindicated in grand style.
A day after her 50th birthday, Takakura gave her whole country a reason to celebrate, becoming the first female coach to lead the Nadeshiko to a major international trophy thanks to substitute Kumi Yokoyama’s sensational late winner.
The former playing great revealed her pride, both at her side’s achievement and the quality of the spectacle.
“We knew since the beginning that the match tonight would be the difficult one, and I believe it was a match worth watching and one of the best matches that Asia can show at this moment,” she said.
“I’m proud to have such a great match against one of the best countries in Asia and in the world – Australia.
“We had very difficult time (tonight). Not for a short time, for a long time. I’d like to congratulate my players from deep in my heart.”
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Since being appointed as Nadeshiko head coach after Japan’s ill-fated 2016 Olympic Games qualification bid, Takakura has overseen a period of heavy experimentation, something the tactician believes was only perfected during the last two weeks of tournament football.
“I’ve been looking for new players all over Japan in the last two years, and we have had some suffering because we didn’t have good results in that time,” she said.
“But in this tournament, during the group stage, I had a plan in my head to use the best combination of the players and they did a great job with my plan. Even in the semi-final it worked very well.
“I have felt great development among my players. Of course the matches were very close, and we were on the edge, but we won those matches and I felt another level of development.
“I challenged them not to lower the level of the team, no matter who starts the match or starts as a substitute, and I’m very proud that we’ve won the championship.”
Having already led Japan to continental titles at U-16 and U-19 level, as well as the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, Takakura has now led Japan to the highest achievement in the Asian women’s game at senior level.
The former midfield star put the success down to an adherence to Japan’s football philosophy and asserted her belief that her side can go much further, with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and Tokyo-hosted 2020 Olympic Games on the horizon.
“When I was a player, I was focused on myself to become the best player, but now as a coach I’m trying to help the players to develop and also trying to develop women’s football ain Japan,” she said.
“The young teams and senior teams are totally different, and I’ve been facing difficult days as the senior coach. I’m still on the way (as a coach).
“In this tournament we played in the Japanese way and won the title, and that gives us confidence, but I can go further and I must go further, so let’s see what happens.”
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