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Japan coach laments 'cruel' penalty as World Cup dream dies

26 June 2019, MVT 15:20
Japan's forward Yuika Sugasawa reacts during the France 2019 Women's World Cup round of sixteen football match between Netherlands and Japan, on June 25, 2019, at the Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, north western France. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)
26 June 2019, MVT 15:20

Japan coach Asako Takakura said the late penalty that sent her team out of the women's World Cup on Tuesday was "cruel" but urged the Nadeshiko to look to the future.

The 2011 World Cup winners were beaten 2-1 by the Netherlands in Rennes as Lieke Martens converted a 90th-minute penalty awarded after a Vivianne Miedema shot had struck the arm of captain Saki Kumagai from point-blank range in the box.

It was a desperately disappointing way for Japan to go out. They had been the better team after Yui Hasegawa cancelled out Martens' early opener, and they hit the woodwork on two separate occasions.

"It was a match we really could have won. We created lots of chances and it was unfortunate that we didn't take them," said Takakura.

"We have been beaten and we are very disappointed. I am really sorry for my players.

"VAR exists. Sometimes cruel decisions have been taken in other matches. Today it went against us. We need to look forward and accept the decision."

Lyon defender Kumagai, who was booked for the fateful handball, was in tears at full-time.

"It was a penalty, it struck my hand. It is very hard to accept. I am sad but I know that that's football," said the 28-year-old.

After the euphoria of their 2011 victory and their run to the final four years ago in Canada, Japan must now try to put this heartache behind them and look ahead to the Olympics in Tokyo next year.

The 2012 Olympic silver medallists came to France with a young team with an eye on the 2020 Games. Six of their starting line-up on Tuesday were aged 23 or under.

"Our team is not the same as in 2011 or in 2015. Now we have a lot of young players but we need to progress more," said Kumagai.

Takakura added: "We still have room for improvement and we will work over the coming year to prepare for the Olympics."

Rennes, France | AFP

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