TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan coach Asako Takakura was adamant that her side never set up to be defensive against any opponent, despite a goalless draw with lowly-ranked Argentina in their World Cup opener in Paris on Monday.
Japan, champions in 2011 and finalists four years ago, started their 2019 campaign in disappointing fashion in Paris as they failed to overcome Argentina, ranked 30 places below them in the world rankings.
It was the first time Argentina had avoided defeat in a World Cup match.
The Nadeshiko may have had almost two-thirds of possession but they failed to make their dominance count, creating few chances.
Despite this, Takakura stood by her game plan.
“We don’t set out to be defensive against any team,” Takakura told reporters, according to Kyodo News.
“Of course, we have to keep a very solid defense, but we don’t want to play defensive football.
“It wasn’t in our mindset at all.”
Takakura did admit her players were too cautious in the first half.
“In the second half, they realized they had to be more offensive, so their tempo was faster and they attempted more shots at goal,” she said.
“However, we weren’t good enough to break down Argentina’s defense today.”
Takakura’s senior players agreed with her assessment and acknowledged that they had produced a disjointed display.
“We were really a bit tight, and maybe it cost us the win,” said defender Aya Sameshima, who is playing in her third World Cup.
Japan must now look for positive results in their final two Group D matches against Scotland in Rennes on Friday and England on June 19 in Nice.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Nick Mulvenney)