Sports: Coach puts family ties to one side as Japan prepares to face England
Norio Sasaki’s son-in-law might be English but the Japan coach warned that he would not be swayed by family ties as the champions’ try to return to the Women’s World Cup final.
“My daughter’s husband is English. We have a sort of fight in our family right now,” Sasaki said on the eve of Wednesday’s semi-final clash with England in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
Japan, ranked fourth, is the only team that has won all five games in Canada, with its last World Cup defeat going back to 2011 when it fell 2-0 to England before taking the title. The two countries also played a 2-2 draw in the 2007 tournament.
But Sasaki said that he was confident of winning to earn a berth in the July 5 final at Vancouver because his team was “technically superior” to sixth-ranked England.
“Since I became coach, Japan have never won against England, but I don’t feel like we’re going to lose at this World Cup,” warned Sasaki.
“Our players have a good mentality and the technical skills to score multiple goals. We will definitely go back to Vancouver, I believe that.
“I think the Japanese players are superior.”
England’s Jill Scott, who was on the 2011 team that beat Japan, said that triumph alone was giving her side confidence.
“We were the only team in that tournament to beat Japan and we can take confidence from that,” the midfielder said.
“We have beaten them before so why not tomorrow?”
And England coach Mark Sampson insisted his side was more than a match for the Japanese.
“I think we’re going to see a game of contrasting styles tomorrow,” said the Welshman.
“There’s a lot of weapons we’re going to chuck their way. We have to appreciate and respect the quality they have technically but we’ve got some half decent players technically ourselves.
“We’re not going to be a one-trick pony. There’s four teams left, world champions, European champions, Olympic champions and then us lot.
“We’re spoiling the party a little bit, but we’re here to stay. We know we’ve upset the apple cart so far. We’ve made life very difficult for every one of our opponents.
“This team is just a laid-back, cool team. They are relaxed and calm and focused on bringing big performances.”
Sampson has been trying to drum up support for the Lionesses back home, issuing a coupon on social media for fans to give to bosses so they can stay in bed the morning after the game, which starts at midnight England time.
“England is a soccer country. I don’t think that Japan is at that level yet,” Sasaki said. “I think that the media should report this in Japan so we can do this type of thing in the future.”
Meanwhile, England’s women have been preparing for their first-ever World Cup semifinal by watching the Paul Gascoigne movie.
The film, released earlier this month, charts the life and career of one of England’s most maverick men’s players.
Arguably Gascoigne’s most famous moment in an England shirt involved a World Cup semifinal, when he was brought to tears as England went out of Italia ’90 at the hands of West Germany.
Sampson’s team has been drawing inspiration from the film, with goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain tweeting on Tuesday morning: “Loved watching Gascoigne with the girls tonight. Such pride and honor to play for @england. How it should be!”