PARCHAL, PORTUGAL – Teen striker Mina Tanaka scored in her senior national team debut, but women’s world champion Japan was condemned to its second straight defeat at the Algarve Cup on Friday after going down 2-1 to title holder Germany in a rerun of last year’s final.
Tanaka, 18, leveled after Verena Faisst had opened the scoring in the seventh minute, but Dzsenifer Marozsan won it for Germany with a long-range free kick on a rain-sodden pitch early in the second half.
Nadeshiko Japan lost 2-0 to Norway on Wednesday, while the Germans now have four points from two games after their opening 0-0 draw with Denmark.
“I thought all the players made a big effort although our passing let us down and our timing was sometimes off,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki.
“We were playing a big team and if the pitch had been in better condition we might have been able to play our style. At the end of the day we lost 2-1 and have to look at what went wrong and look to our next game (against Denmark on Monday).”
Sasaki decided to leave out the vastly experienced former World Player of the Year Homare Sawa and regular captain Aya Miyama for this tournament in order to give his younger players more experience.
Yuki Ogimi took the captain’s armband against the Germans after Nahomi Kawasumi deputized for Miyama against Norway, and Tanaka joined her up front with Megumi Takase in a three-prong attack.
Just as they had on Wednesday, Japan fell behind early. Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, who scored a hat trick in a 4-3 win against Sasaki’s team in last year’s Algarve final, sent in a cross and a loose ball found its way to Faisst to put the Germans in front.
Takase fired just wide after 15 minutes but Tanaka steered home the equalizer moments later after Ogimi had headed on Asuna Tanaka’s free kick.
“I am pleased that I was finally able to realize my dream of playing for Nadeshiko but we lost so I feel disappointed about that. Hopefully I can make use of this experience,” said Tanaka.
Kawasumi nearly gave Japan the lead three minutes before the break but Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult did well to smother her shot.
Japan started the second half strongly, with Ogimi flashing a header wide, but Marozsan caught goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori out with a free kick from fully 35 meters on 55 minutes.
Kaihori made up in part for poor judgment on that goal with a crucial save from Okoyino da Mbabi on 70 minutes, but Kawasumi then spurned a golden chance to level with only the goalkeeper to beat.
“We lost the game but I think the way we want to play is starting to come into view,” said Ogimi.