Nadeshiko Japan added some size and strength to its depleted lineup by calling up Ami Otaki, a 172-centimeter-tall striker whose physical play is expected to improve the national team’s side attack.
Otaki, who now plays on France’s Olympique Lyonnais, will make her debut on the 21-member national team at a June 15-22 tournament in Sweden.
She hopes to represent Japan at the Summer Olympics.
“(To play in) the Olympic Games has been my dream. I had almost given up playing in London,” Otaki said. “I will bring out my best in the games in Sweden. I don’t want to disappoint head coach (Norio) Sasaki, who kindly selected me to play.”
Injuries have scratched two forwards--Yuika Sugasawa of the Albirex Niigata Ladies and Mai Kyokawa of INAC Kobe Leonessa--for the tournament in Sweden.
“Height is something that is absent on the Japanese national team,” said Otaki, 22, “I want to draw attention to this.”
The Waseda University graduate played in matches overseas during her high school days, and has since been interested in traveling abroad and learning new languages.
During the 2011 Universiade, the French team coach was impressed by the skills of Otaki, who was the leading scorer in the tournament.
She passed a tryout and signed an 18-month contract with the professional team in Lyon. But she has been struggling to earn a starting position since arriving in France in February.
To keep up with faster and stronger players, Otaki bought a balance ball, which she uses for an hour each day to increase her strength.
She has scored five times in seven official games this season, even though she entered as a substitute in most games.
After her team won the UEFA Women’s Champions League final, Otaki found herself on the pitch surrounded by the crowd of 50,000.
“Everything has gone well so far,” she said, laughing. “But I am afraid I might fall into a pitfall later.”
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