Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Vancouver: Dynamic midfielder Rumi Utsugi believes Japan’s 2012 Olympic defeat to the USA will stand her side in good stead when the two meet on Sunday (local time) to contest the FIFA Women’s World Cup final.
The 26-year-old, who has shone brightly throughout Japan’s march to the title showdown, was a member of the Nadeshiko squad that won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup by defeating the Stars and Stripes on penalties, and then watched on as, a year later, the East Asians lost out on gold to their North American rivals.
With a 1-1 draw in Portugal the only game in which the powerhouses have faced each other since that clash in London, Utsugi, while more than aware of the threat posed by the USA, believes the 2012 Olympic loss will only serve to motivate Norio Sasaki’s charges.
“One thing that's different from 2011 is that Japan now have the experience and the sorrow of losing in the Olympic final against USA,” Utsugi told FIFA’s official website.
“I'm so excited to face them in the final. All 11 [USA] players on the pitch have the mood, aura and awareness that they can make something happen.
“They know in their heart that they are special, and at this kind of tournament that can lead them to a good result.”
For Utsugi, who plies her trade with Montpellier in France, the encounter at Vancouver’s BC Stadium also represents an opportunity to partly banish memories of a 2011 World Cup during which she was regularly forced to watch from the bench as Japan went on to be crowned champions.
“As a Japanese, I was very proud to be there and gain a wonderful experience but, as a footballer, regret was the feeling I had in my heart,” she said.
“All the other players in the team took me to that stage, but I could do nothing [to contribute].
“However, I am here now because I had the experience over the past four years since 2011. Now I feel I have come to the right direction, after the accumulation of success and failure down the years.”
Photo: FIFA / Getty Images