PARCHAL, PORTUGAL – A brace from Yui Hasegawa lifted the Japan women’s soccer team to a 2-0 win over Iceland at the Algarve Cup on Friday to secure its first win under coach Asako Takakura.
The victory was also Japan’s first this year at the invitational tournament. Japan losts its opener 2-1 to Spain on Wednesday. Spain leads Group B with six points after a 3-0 win over Norway on Friday.
The 20-year-old Hasegawa opened her Nadeshiko Japan account with a superb effort from around 35 meters in the 11th minute at Bela Vista Municipal Stadium and then completed victory with the second four minutes later.
Rumi Utsugi had a shot parried by Iceland goalkeeper Gudbjorg Gunnarsdottir, but Kumi Yokoyama picked up the loose ball and cut it back for Hasegawa to volley in from close range.
“I couldn’t relax, to some extent, without having won a match. I’m really pleased,” Takakura said. “But we’re still some way off the mark in regards to putting emphasis on our interplay and the flow of the game, and I am not at all satisfied with our ideas and linkups in front of goal.”
“We’ve taken a step forward as a team. I believe we can do much more.”
After the match, Hasegawa reflected on her performance.
“I thought this would be a chance for me to show what I can do so I can keep being selected for Japan. I am glad I could deliver a result,” said Hasegawa, who set up Yokoyama for Japan’s lone goal against Spain and was making her first start for the senior national team.
“I wanted to go for goal (for the opener) and I picked up the ball in a good position and just let fly,” said the NTV Beleza midfielder.
Hasegawa also had Takakura, who first picked her for the under-17 side and continues to show trust in her, to thank.
“I’m allowed play with freedom because coach Takakura is the boss. She’s letting my strengths thrive and I’m grateful for her,” Hasegawa said.
Japan plays its final Group B game against Norway on Monday.
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.