Takakura: I'd be lying if I said there was no pressure
Tokyo: Asako Takakura will be hoping she has a stay to remember in her nation’s capital. As coach of the Nadeshiko, hosts at Tokyo 2020, her goal will be to reach the gold medal match at the Olympic Stadium on 7 August.
After a tough learning curve for a young squad at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019, Takakura’s troops have their focus firmly on this year’s Olympics.
FIFA.com sat down with the former midfielder and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup-winning coach to discuss last year’s “disappointing” World Cup, and welcoming the world to Japan for Tokyo 2020.
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It is perhaps best to put France 2019 in the context of a learning experience for a young Japan side with more than half of your squad aged under 23. What lessons did you take from your first experience as a head coach at a senior World Cup?
It was my first time coaching at a senior World Cup, but I didn’t focus on that aspect of it. I just wanted to help the team win. Of course, we went to the World Cup with the aim of winning the title, but things didn’t quite go as I’d hoped. However, the players experienced playing at a major tournament, and our defeats clearly revealed what we were lacking as a team. That was the main thing we gained.
Our results at the World Cup were bitterly disappointing for the players, the coaching staff and me personally. We got some clarity about the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and we made a fresh start.
How is the squad shaping up for the Olympics? Do you feel personal pressure to succeed as hosts?
Of course, we must work on many things as we build toward the Olympic Games. I personally don’t really feel any pressure at the moment, but as the tournament gets closer, I think the team will get more attention and I’ll feel some expectation to succeed.
I’d be lying if I said there was no pressure, but I think it’s important to do my best and ensure the players, and I, don’t forget to enjoy our football.
The host cities, according to Takakura
Sapporo: A beautiful city
Yokohama: A great vibe, always fun to walk around and soak that up
Tokyo: Plenty of fun things to do
Wherever visitors go, I’m sure the Japanese people will warmly welcome everyone.
Regarding the Olympics in general, of course it’s unique in that it has so many disciplines all in one place. What Olympic Games memories stand out for you?
I participated at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, which was the first time women’s football had featured at the Olympics, so that was very memorable for me.
At that tournament, the Japanese women’s team didn’t have much chance of winning but in recent times, Japanese teams and athletes have improved in various sports, and they have a better chance of winning medals. I think that’s been a change. I like watching track and field events, especially the 100 metres. It’s thrilling to watch the athletes that get only one shot at glory.
Sources: FIFA, FIFA via Getty Images, Japan Football Association
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