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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sasaki urges Nadeshiko to take fight to U.S. squad


SENDAI — Japan coach Norio Sasaki has instructed his team to launch an all-out offensive on the United States as the world champions look to return to winning ways in the opening match of the three-team Kirin Challenge Cup in Sendai on Sunday.

Japan scored another ego-inflating win against the Americans thanks to Megumi Takase's late goal at the Algarve Cup in Portugal earlier this month, only to lose to Germany in the tournament final.

But despite conceding five goals in three games in Portugal, Sasaki has no concerns about his team's defensive capabilities but has called for more of a cutting edge in the final third after his players struggled in front of goal at their camp this week.

Japan lost 1-0 to the United States behind closed doors in a training match on Thursday and also failed to hit the target in defeats to high school teams during the camp.

"I am happy about the way we defended against the United States in the training match we had but on the other hand in that game and the games against the high school students we couldn't score," Sasaki told a news conference on the eve of the match at Yurtec Stadium.

"I have told the players we can't go without scoring. We need to attack. We were able to withstand pressure early on in the last game against the United States (in Portugal) but overall we lacked quality when it came to breaking their defense down."

"Each and every one of the players has to be aggressive and show fight for the people watching here in Tohoku," he said.

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage welcomed the tough tests against Japan and Brazil, who her team faces in Chiba on Tuesday, ahead of their Olympic title defense in London.

"I'm very happy with the fact that we have games against Japan and Brazil. It's very important for this team to play games and it couldn't be better to play against two such good teams," she said.

"We need to be more aggressive than when we played against Japan at the Algarve Cup and in order to be successful we need to keep the ball. The more we keep the ball and find the rhythm the bigger chance we will have to score goals."

Japan stunned the soccer world when it upset the United States 3-1 on penalties to become the first ever Asian team to win the World Cup title in Germany last summer, a result still rankles with Sundhage.

"In the women's game it is very different from the first World Cup in 1991 when you had a couple of teams that could win it. Today it looks very different," said the Swede.

"It's like the Japan coach said when he was coach of the year at the FIFA gala awards (in January): 'yes we won the World Cup but it has been a long, long way to that World Cup and a lot of development.'

"Japan has been playing technical football all the time and now it is paying off. I think in the game at the World Cup we played well, I think we played better than Japan and were a little bit unlucky. But that is how it is when it is really tight against two good teams."

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