• Kyodo


Japan cleaned up at the Asian Football Confederation awards on Sunday, winning a total of seven honors including women’s national team of the year.

Nadeshiko Japan were recognized for reaching their second consecutive Women’s World Cup final while Asako Takakura was named the top female coach for a fourth time after leading Japan to the Under-19 Women’s Championship.

Rikako Kobayashi was chosen as the top women’s youth player of the year.

“I didn’t really think I’d win it again,” Takakura said. “I owe this to my players who fought for what we believe in on the pitch. With the senior side having won the world title, we have a responsibility to keep it going.

“We’re still not up to par in many areas of our game, which is something the players have to embrace. We have to keep trying to improve.”

United Arab Emirates striker Ahmed Khalil was selected as the men’s player of the year, but the women’s counterpart went unannounced as all three finalists — Japan’s Aya Miyama and Rumi Utsugi and Australia’s Elise Kellond-Knight — failed to attend the ceremony, which is a prerequisite to win an award.

The women’s player of the year will be named at a later date, the AFC said.

Dutch beat Nadeshiko


Nadeshiko Japan finished 2015 on a losing note on Sunday, going down 3-1 away to the Netherlands in a friendly in Volendam.

First-half goals from Lieke Martens and Manon Melis put the Dutch in control and although Miho Sakaguchi pulled one back for Japan early in the second half, Melis grabbed her second goal of the game from the penalty spot to seal the win with 12 minutes left.

“There are a lot of things from this match for us to reflect upon,” said Japan coach Norio Sasaki, whose team will be aiming to book a ticket to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in the final round of Asian qualifiers held in Osaka in February.

“Our opponents punished our mistakes and we showed naivety. The Netherlands gave us a good lesson.”

Japan kicks off its Rio qualifying campaign against Australia on Feb. 29, then plays South Korea on March 2, China on March 4, Vietnam on March 7 and North Korea on March 9.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.