Nadeshiko Japan eased to a confident 7-0 win over Panama on Sunday, capping off a goal-filled international break that served as a key tune-up ahead of the Summer Olympics.
Urawa Reds striker Yuika Sugasawa notched two of her three goals during an explosive first half at Tokyo’s National Stadium, with Tokyo Verdy Beleza defender Risa Shimizu, AC Milan midfielder Yui Hasegawa and OL Reign striker Yuka Momiki all joining her on the scoreboard before the halftime whistle.
“We had a lot of possession in the first half and they drew back, but we attacked from the side, took mid-range shots and found variations,” Nadeshiko head coach Asako Takakura said. “We played better than we did in the first half against Paraguay (in Thursday’s 7-0 win) and everyone came into the game with a stronger focus on scoring goals.”
Japan picked up where it left off in the second half with near-constant pressure on Panama goalkeeper Yenith Bailey. Mana Iwabuchi’s 56th-minute cross allowed Sugasawa to finish her hat trick, with the two — along with Momiki — substituted out shortly after.
“I had chances to head in a goal earlier but the goal off Mana’s cross was the most memorable,” Sugasawa said. “It’s my first hat trick for the national team since the (2014) Asian Games … and to accomplish that at the National Stadium is even bigger.”
Iwabuchi, who plays for Aston Villa in the Women’s Super League, ended the day with just one assist despite being involved in three other goals for Japan, adding to the two goals she scored against Paraguay on Thursday at Sendai’s Yurtec Stadium.
INAC Kobe Leonessa midfielder Hina Sugita, coming off the bench for her 20th senior cap, scored her first international goal in the 61st minute when Panama goalkeeper Yenith Bailey was unable to punch the low shot outside of the post.
Japan spent most of the game in the attacking third, recording a total of 26 shots to Panama’s two and maintaining 63% of possession.
The first international game hosted at the new venue, which opened to the public in December 2019 and will host the women’s soccer final at the Tokyo Games, drew a crowd of 4,036 as well as praise from Panama head coach Ignacio Quintana.
“It’s an amazing stadium in all aspects. We’re honored to have been invited to such a momentous event,” said Quintana. “The players were inspired by the facilities, the pitch and the stands. I hope Central American countries can look at this stadium as a model.”
Ticket sales had been limited to 10,000 after the latest state of emergency was lifted in Tokyo late last month, although the capital is set to return to restrictive quasi-emergency measures from Monday due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Nadeshiko Japan will play two more friendlies — on June 10 in Hiroshima and June 13 in Tochigi — before Takakura finalizes her list of 18 players for the Tokyo Games.
“To host the Olympics is a valuable experience,” Sugasawa said. “Standing on this pitch, I thought that I want to stand here again at the final.”
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