Resurgent Nadeshiko full of belief
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Thursday’s Group C meeting between Japan and Venezuela at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 turned out to be something of a mismatch. Mustering 72 per cent of possession, the young Nadeshiko fired in 28 shots on the Vinotinto goal, scoring six goals without reply.

That scoreline represented quite a turnaround for Hiroshi Yoshida’s side, who slumped to a dispiriting 4-1 loss to Spain in their tournament bow. “This week we all sat down together and went through what happened,” attacking midfielder Haruna Kawashima told “We said we needed to take a calmer approach on the pitch, use our heads and play our own game.”

When you play up front having an understanding is absolutely vital.
Japan's Haruna Kawashima

“We were very nervous against Spain because it was our opening game of the competition, and things didn’t go well for us,” she continued. “There were a lot of things that seemed to affect us. We didn’t keep our wits about us when we were on the ball and we didn’t play well as a team or individually. Spain are a very strong side and they were very quick to close us down. That meant we lacked our usual mobility and we gave the ball away.”

Thankfully for the Asians, it was a completely different story in their second outing. Upping the tempo, playing a more fluid passing game and fielding three forwards in Chika Kato, Mai Kyokawa and Kawashima, the Japanese never let their energy levels drop for a second. Swapping positions continually, the strike trio brought some much-needed dynamism to the team and struck up a perfect understanding.

“Did we play that well?” asked Kawashima with a smile. “We’ve never played together before so we worked really hard on communicating with each other on the pitch,” explained the striker. “When you play up front having an understanding is absolutely vital. That’s essential if you’re going to work as an attacking unit. We just tried to make sure we were in the right place at the right time, which is something we’ve been working on in every training session,” added Kyokawa, who hit a hat-trick against the Venezuelans, one of the goals coming from the penalty spot.

“I didn’t score in the Spain game but I was lucky enough to get quite a few chances against Venezuela,” continued Japan’s goal hero. “I was very determined when I went out there and I was concentrating hard on taking those chances. I had a funny feeling it might be my match and that’s how it turned out.”

A shot in the arm
As well as helping them recover their form and morale, that performance against the South Americans also put the Japanese back in the frame in Group C. Another win in their final game in the section against New Zealand in Marabella on Monday will almost certainly guarantee them a place in the next round, an objective they are confident of fulfilling.

“I think we’re going to beat New Zealand,” said Kawashima, who lists Xavi as one of her favourite players. “There are still things we need to work on though. We beat Venezuela 6-0 but there were still some things that didn’t go to plan. We need to look at them and polish them up. Our game is based on possession and we need to play our passes more quickly. And to do that the players need to communicate a lot on the pitch. If we can do that, we’ll be able to play our best football and win.”

Nodding her head in agreement, Kyokawa has the final word: “I can’t see us losing to New Zealand. If we can play our game, keep the ball and play quick passes, then I’m sure we’ll win. The coach will be telling us what to do and we’ll being trying to do what he says as best we can.”