Nadeshiko coach Asako Takakura advises Japan’s younger players to avoid resting on laurels

by Ayano Shimizu

Kyodo

A day after Japan won the Women’s Under-20 World Cup for the first time, senior head coach Asako Takakura offered some words of wisdom to youngsters who wish to forge the future of Japanese soccer.

“It is important to be tough in every single aspect in life, and have top-level technique,” Takakura said. “I want young players to have depth both on the pitch and as human beings.

“I wish to call up those players who strive for the best to my side as fast as possible.”

Takakura, who has been coaching Nadeshiko Japan since 2016, said she was impressed by the performance of the younger squad in the U-20 World Cup, where it defeated Spain 3-1 in the final.

The victory made Japan the first nation to win the title in all three FIFA Women’s World Cup categories, having also won the senior and U-17 titles.

“I woke up last night to watch the match. Despite playing on a huge stage with consecutive matches against powerhouses, the side had sufficient mental strength and technique,” Takakura said. “I’m encouraged that there are many young players who may be a threat to some of those on the senior team.

“Watching them fight in this tournament gave me courage. I’m motivated to make Japan the best in the world.”

Next year, Takakura’s senior side will aim to follow the lead of the U-20 team, when Japan competes in the Women’s World Cup in 2019. Japan won the tournament in 2011.

The 50-year-old Takakura also stated she has higher standards for her squad, which beat North Korea in the Asian Games on Saturday.

“I feel like the younger players on the senior side are still incomplete,” she said. “There are young players who get leg cramps or get nervous and can’t touch the ball at the end of a tight game.”

Takakura said the players need to “climb up two or three steps” and shouldn’t be satisfied they have been doing well enough on the senior team.

“A real player is someone who can do something when everyone else can’t move,” she said. “What probably counts at the end is how you behave in your everyday life, from what you eat to your dedication to training.”

Although she had some tough words for the younger players on the squad, she admits they are also the ones who provide the necessary characteristics to the team.

“They have momentum and explosive power,” she said. “The strengths of young players are different from those of the veterans. I want to combine their strengths in my team.”

The next test for Takakura’s senior team is its Asian Games semifinal against South Korea on Tuesday. Japan is trying to win its first championship since 2010.