11, 2011. (AP Photo)” width=”250″ height=”175″ class=”NewsPhoto” />
China’s Weng Xinzhi, left, fights for the ball with Japan’s Nagasato Yuki, right, during a women’s soccer match at the final round of Asian qualification for the 2012 London Olympics in Jinan in eastern China’s Shandong province on Sept. 11, 2011. (AP Photo)
NARITA, Japan (Kyodo) — Japan women’s soccer team captain Homare Sawa threw down the gauntlet as the world champions returned home Monday to a heroes’ welcome after qualifying for the London Olympics.
“Even at the Olympics, we want to win the brightest medal there is,” Sawa stated after Japan coach Norio Sasaki’s team arrived from China at Narita airport, where a throng of around 500 fans and 100 members of the media turned out to greet them.
At the just-completed final Asian qualifying tournament in Jinan, Japan completed top in the six-team round-robin competition with four wins and a draw, securing one of the two berths up for grabs for next year’s Games.
Having already secured a place in the tournament in London, Japan fielded a weaker side for a dead rubber on Sunday against host China, but prevailed 1-0 thanks to Asuna Tanaka’s second goal of the tournament at Jinan Olympic Sports Centre.
North Korea also qualified for London after a 5-0 thumping of Thailand earlier on Sunday.
Japan’s Homare Sawa, blue left, competes with North Korea’s Jon Myong Hwa (17) during their women’s soccer match at the final round of Asian qualification for the 2012 London Olympics in eastern China’s Shandong province, on Sept. 8, 2011. (AP Photo)
The Japanese women, nicknamed “Nadeshiko,” won their third consecutive Olympic berth and fourth overall in women’s soccer. They became the first Japanese to qualify for a team event at the London Games.
“They all fought hard and had patience under a severe schedule,” stated Sasaki. “The quality of play in Asia has improved. We know what we have to do now going forward toward the Olympics,” he said.
Karina Maruyama, who hurt her right knee in the match against China, appeared at Narita in a wheelchair.
The Nadeshiko League, the top-tier domestic league, will resume on Sept. 23 with leaders INAC Kobe Leonessa, featuring World Cup MVP Sawa and national team striker Nahomi Kawasumi, travelling to Maruyama’s JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies.
Maruyama has been diagnosed with damaged ligaments in her right knee and is expected to require six months to recover, her club said.
Japan’s Yuki Nagasato (17) competes with North Korea’s Paek Sol Hui (2) during the women’s soccer match at the final round of Asian qualification for the 2012 London Olympics in Jinan in eastern China’s Shandong province on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011. (AP Photo)
U.S.-based Japan defender Aya Sameshima stated the same day she will transfer to French club Montpellier from the Boston Breakers.
“My goal is clear,” Sameshima said. “I want to get a medal at the Olympics. Of course, gold is the best. I want to improve the quality of my play.”
- Chelsea boss calls for calm in race storm
- Football fans clash with police in Turkey
- U.S. stocks manage 6th day of gains, stimulus eyed
- Soccer: Suarez admits to improper conduct
- Beckham, LA Galaxy to face Azkals in December
- Polish leaders want stiff penalties for hooligans
- Bryant Gasol or Lakers strongest array rushing playoffs Saturday Qi comeback
- Platini snipes at autocratic FIFA president Blatter
- Heading a soccer ball could lead to brain injury
- FALLING SHORT Comeback not enough for Bryant
Submited by chuck - Comment RSS 2.0 - leave a comment - trackback