• Kyodo


Former women’s world champion Japan was held to a 1-1 draw against Belgium in an international friendly on Tuesday.

Yuika Sugasawa put Japan ahead with a left-footed effort in the 69th minute, but Belgium quickly responded with a headed equalizer from Elke Van Gorp three minutes later.

“We experimented with a three-back system but I didn’t see any problem with the formation and the passes were smooth,” said Japan manager Asako Takakura.

“It was too bad we couldn’t find our rhythm and break down their defense before the break. I’m not happy. I wanted to see two or three goals. I had sort of imagined this, but you don’t always succeed on first try.”

Takakura’s side has a record of four wins, four losses and two draws since the 49-year-old took over from Norio Sasaki in April 2016 as the first female manager of Nadeshiko Japan.

Japan defeated the Netherlands 1-0 on Friday night in the first of its two matches in Europe. Takakura’s team returns home Thursday and next plays in the four-team Tournament of Nations in the United States in July.

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