ASIAN CUP 2018: EV­ERY­THING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Australian Four Four Two - - ASIAN CUP SPECIAL - Words Liana Bu­ratti, Cheryl Downes and Marissa Lor­danic

JA­PAN

WIN­NERS: 2014 RUN­NERS UP: 2007, 1986, 1991, 1995, 2001

While there will be no easy matches for the Matil­das in the Asian Cup, Ja­pan could be the team to stop Aus­tralia’s bid for glory. Ja­pan boasts sev­eral cham­pi­onships, gold medals and fin­ished sec­ond in the 2015 World Cup after de­feat­ing the Matil­das 1-0 in the quar­ter fi­nal. Aus­tralia and Ja­pan’s last Asian Cup clashes came in 2014 when they drew their first match, and Ja­pan later went on to dom­i­nate the Matil­das in the fi­nal and take the tro­phy. But last year the Matil­das beat Ja­pan 4-2 in the 2017 Tour­na­ments of Na­tions tour­na­ment in San Diego, hot on the heels of a 3-1 win over Ja­pan at the 2016 Olympics qual­i­fier tour­na­ment. Un­der the guid­ance of for­mi­da­ble coach and for­mer Olympian, Asako Takakura, Ja­pan has been go­ing from strength to strength. She took over from No­rio Sasaki when he stepped down as coach after Ja­pan failed to qual­ify for the Olympics. Takakura is a four-time Asian Women’s Coach of the Year win­ner and has led Ja­pan to an U17 Women’s World Cup and an Asian U19 Championship. Takakura will be aim­ing to re­peat that suc­cess as se­nior level at the Asian Cup – and is unashamedly am­bi­tious in her goals. When she was an­nounced as head coach she said: “We aim to play football that can lead the world.”

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