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Takakura: Japan must improve in knockout stage

Nice: Improve or go home – that was Japan head coach Asako Takakura’s ultimatum to her side after they finished their FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 group stage campaign with a 2-0 defeat to England on Wednesday.

The Nadeshiko don’t yet know whether they’ll meet Canada or the Netherlands in Tuesday’s Round of 16 clash in Rennes, but, according to Takakura, it will make little difference to their prospects of success of France unless they can produce better performances.

“If we maintain the way we are playing at the moment, we will be knocked out in the next round,” she said. “Our players are aware of that.”

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“(The players) have strengths and abilities but unless they can display that on the pitch, we can’t deliver good results. That is a fact. A reality.

“Every one of us needs to try and demonstrate our abilities on the pitch, and we have to keep pushing.”

Despite a slow start, punctuated by falling behind early to the first of two Ellen White goals, Japan were highly competitive against England and, with some more efficient finishing, could have snatched a result.

It would be tempting to assume that Takakura’s side simply need to be better in front of goal to reach their targets, but she maintains her side must pick up the slack throughout from top to bottom in order to become a contender in France.


“Yes, we have created some chances, but the fact that we couldn’t score goals wasn’t purely because of our lack of scoring ability,” she said. “England’s defence and goalkeeper were brilliant, so that’s why we couldn’t score any goal tonight.

“There is nothing that I’m satisfied with, apart from the fact that we went through to the knockout stage. The knockout stage is a different league.

“I have assessed individual players and the outcome is clear, so we just have to head towards the next match collectively, as a whole squad.”

Japan’s best period of the game came late in the second half, with Mana Iwabuchi creating a number of opportunities, many of which fell to substitute Yuika Sugasawa, but the latter was unable to add to the goal she scored against Argentina before White’s second goal six minutes from time settled England’s three points.

Lionesses head coach Phil Neville revealed that, after an excellent first half from his side, he had been starting to question whether they could have held Japan out during their late surge.

“We needed that second goal to be honest with you,” he said. “To give us that breathing space.”

“We knew they were going to have opportunities. I felt very comfortable in the first half, although I thought we could have passed it a bit better.

“I’m a massive, massive fan (of Japan). They play football the right way and they’ve got some really talented young players. In the next 12 to 18 months they’re going to be a massive force."

Photos: AFP

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