Japan coach calls for new Nadeshiko
Japan's women's football coach Norio Sasaki urged a new generation of "Nadeshiko" to step forward Friday with big changes expected after their silver medal-winning Olympic campaign.
Sasaki, who is expected to depart the team along with world player of the year Homare Sawa, said it was time to start building for their 2015 World Cup title defence after the 2-1 loss to the United States in the Olympic final.
Despite the disappointing night at Wembley Stadium, which deflated millions of fans at home, Sasaki called it the best moment of his career -- better even than lifting the World Cup in Germany last year.
"I know they have even greater potential, but they were able to express everything, they demonstrated their strength, and we won silver, which is good," Sasaki said.
"They played against the USA, who are a fabulous team. They each grew during this experience, they had wonderful team play and they achieved this wonderful silver medal.
"This is my greatest moment in my career in soccer and I want many new Nadeshiko athletes to come forward. We have the World Cup of course and we want all of you to watch for the new Japanese players who will be coming forward."
Sawa, 33, admitted she needed a break after the Olympics, but the two-time Asian player of the year, who top-scored at last year's World Cup, remained vague on whether she would return to international duty.
"First of all, I'm taking leave so I want to rejuvenate physically and emotionally," she said.
"Immediately after our return home we have matches in other competitions so I'd like to be able to participate as a valuable member... I'm so glad I've been involved in women's soccer for so many years. This silver medal means so much to me."
Japan captain Aya Miyama paid tribute to Sasaki, who has been with the "Nadeshiko" for more than four years and has now led them to two major finals in consecutive years.
"I have appreciated him and thanked him from the bottom of my heart," she said. "Starting this year, I've been injured and I haven't been on top form. I was concerned and worried but he supported me throughout it all.
"There were a lot of trials and tribulations but he always smiled and laughed and made the atmosphere wonderful. I wanted to follow him and I wanted to do my best."
Many Japanese stayed up overnight to watch the match, with crowds of fans chanting, "Nippon! Nippon!" (Japan) as they tumbled out of sports bars in Tokyo after the final whistle at 5:30 am local time.
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