Though their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup adventure eventually ended with penalty shoot-out heartbreak in the final here at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Japan and their coach Hiroshi Yoshida are determined to take the positives from their time in the Caribbean. “I’ll always remember the magnificent greenery, the wildlife and the smiles on people’s faces. From now on I’ll be tackling life with a smile too!” said Yoshida, whose young charges gave him plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the future.
And though there can be little more frustrating than being denied a trophy on spot-kicks, the boss of the Young Nadeshiko knows his side should perhaps have killed the game off earlier. “At 3-2 we had the match in hand,” said Yoshida, whose team were pegged back by a 79th-minute leveller from Korea Republic’s Lee So Dam, before losing 5-4 on penalties after extra time. “We had the opportunity to put the game beyond them but we didn’t take it. On the contrary, we allowed a brave South Korean side back into it and ended up letting the title slip through our fingers.”
Asian contingent impress
Japanese captain Eri Hirao instead preferred to focus on the merits of the victorious Taeguk Ladies, when speaking to FIFA.com. “They’re a great team who are particularly dangerous at long-range shooting,” said the goalkeeper, whose three goals conceded all came from distance, before hailing the quality of Asian women’s football as a whole. “Looking at the big picture, I think it’s really fascinating that three teams from our continent reached the semi-finals of the competition."
Nor can that achievement be put down to chance, with Japan in particular playing an eye-catching, attacking and effective brand of quick, short-passing football throughout this competition. “It was really rewarding to pit our game against that of teams from across the globe,” said Hirao. “As it turns out, we’re not able to match up physically against the other nations, so we had to make up for that in other ways.”
Shades of ‘El Pelusa’
Diminutive left-winger Kumi Yokoyama, impressive from the off at this global showpiece, is the perfect example of this trend – having wowed observers here at Trinidad and Tobago 2010 thanks to her class, mazy dribbles and stunning goals. These included a majestic Diego Maradona-esque winner against semi-final opponents Korea DPR, when she weaved her way past no fewer than five players before thumping a low shot into the bottom corner. “That goal in particular will live long in my memory!” said Yokoyama, unable to contain a smile despite the disappointment of final defeat.
And as winner of the adidas Silver Ball and adidas Bronze Boot, Japan’s No17 will also have tangible reminders of her FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2010 experience to take home. “These two trophies will be my nicest mementos (of this tournament). I’d like to share them with every one of my team-mates, who I owe it all too,” said Yokoyama, whose generosity of spirit was echoed by Young Nadeshiko skipper Hirao. “We put the squad before ourselves,” she said as the conversation concluded. “Over the coming years we’ll try and keep that extraordinary atmosphere going, that genuine friendship that brings us together. And keep winning matches too of course.”