High-flying Japan seek Olympic upgrade

08 August 2012 06:46

World champions Japan don't care if they travel first-class or economy -- but they plan to be flying high after Thursday's Olympic final against the United States.

Talismanic captain Aya Miyama played down a pre-Games row when they flew to London in the cheap seats while the men's team were in business class, saying "we're pretty small, so it doesn't really matter".

But coach Norio Sasaki said whatever seats his players are in, they plan to be wearing gold medals. And he said they've made special plans to contain the free-scoring Americans at Wembley.

"Abby Wambach's crosses we will deal with with our heading. (Alex) Morgan is very fast, she's got a very strong shot. This is something we've experienced many, many times," Sasaki said.

"We've made adjustments and corrections over time so we're quite confident we've done our preparations to deal with these very powerful players. of course, we're targeting the gold medal. I haven't thought about silver."

The United States, who are seeking revenge after their penalties loss to the "Nadeshiko" in last year's World Cup final, have totted up 14 goals in their five Olympic matches so far.

But fatherly Sasaki, who has nicknamed goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto "Guardian Angel", forward Yuki Ogimi "Courageous" and Miyama "Goddess", is unconcerned.

"It's not so much that the strong wins, but who wins is strong. We had a win in the World Cup so it would follow that our players are very strong," he said.

"Maybe they have a greater incentive, so we have to improve our attitude. So the question is, how strong can we make our desire to beat the US?"

Fukumoto said Japan would look to score early and keep the United States at bay. In last year's World Cup final in Germany, they twice came from behind to force extra-time and penalties.

"We need to score early in the game. We don't want to be too late to score goals," she said. "In the first half, we want to keep them at zero, so we need to work defensively to make sure they don't score."

And Sasaki said the "Nadeshiko" -- named after a frilly flower that symbolises Japanese femininity -- remained an inspiration to Japanese people as they recover from a major earthquake and tsunami disaster last year.

"The people of Japan are still trying to come back from the disaster. Through our competition, the Japanese people will be able to take some energy and encouragement from this team," he said.

Victory on Thursday would make Japan only the second team to hold the world and Olympic titles at the same time, after the United States in 1999. They lost their Olympic crown a year later.

Source: AFP