• Kyodo


Japan women’s soccer head coach Asako Takakura praised China’s improvements since their last encounter in April as the two teams prepared for Friday’s gold-medal match.

In a Thursday news conference, Takakura said China has become a big threat to her country’s hopes of winning a first Asian Games gold since 2010.

“I have a different impression of China. The team is well-organized in a way that enables the players to make full use of their skills and speed,” Takakura said.

“It is important for us to concentrate on doing our very best in the match. It is a match that will decide the best team in Asia. I’m looking forward to a wonderful game.”

In April, Nadeshiko Japan faced China in the semifinals of the Women’s Asian Cup winning 3-1 to book its ticket to the final. Takakura’s side went on to claim its second straight trophy in the Asian Football Confederation’s showpiece tournament by defeating Australia.

Takakura cited the appointment of former Gamba Osaka player Jia Xiuquan to China’s head coaching position in May as one reason behind its improved form.

“The Chinese play very hard until the end, and they are very focused on winning,” said Takakura, who became Japan coach in 2016. “I think that will be the tough part about playing against them.”

Jia, who hopes to lead China to its first gold since 1998, said his side is ready for the final.

“Our whole team has been well prepared,” he said. “We know that Japan is one of the best teams in Asia and around the world.

“They are very disciplined, but our team also has its own style. I believe that tomorrow, we will have a very exciting match.”

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