Winning an Olympic medal on Aug. 9 at the London Olympics is simply the latest feather in the cap for head coach Norio Sasaki, who has turned the team around since taking over in January 2008.
His player-friendly approach has encouraged the accomplishments of his team on the pitch that have brought national adoration on Nadeshiko Japan. That is a far cry from what Homare Sawa, the most experienced player on the team, remembers about the lack of fanfare and money that women soccer players have had to endure for years.
In fact, much was made of Nadeshiko Japan having to fly to Europe before the London Olympics in premium economy class, while the men's team sat farther forward in business class on the same flight.
It did not take Sasaki long to put the stamp of success on his Nadeshiko Japan when he took over more than four years ago. A month after taking over as head coach, Sasaki led the team to victory in the East Asia women's soccer championship. That was not only the first time the team won that championship, but the first championship of any kind that it won.
There was no turning back from there as Nadeshiko Japan put together a string of firsts:
At the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, the team made the semifinals for the first time.
The team defended its East Asia women's soccer championship in 2010, going undefeated for a second straight time.
In 2010, Nadeshiko Japan won the Asian Games gold medal in women's soccer.
The biggest accomplishment came the following year when the team won the Women's World Cup, upsetting host Germany in the quarterfinals, downing Sweden in the semis and beating the United States in the final on a penalty kick shootout. That victory marked its first win ever against the Americans and also brought the joy of a World Cup title to a still-grieving nation that had been battered just months before by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Along with endorsement opportunities and heightened interest in women's soccer, the accolades and honors piled up for Japan's new heroes.
Sawa was chosen as women's player of the year for 2011 by FIFA, while Sasaki was named women's team coach of the year.
* * *
Milestones for Nadeshiko Japan under head coach Norio Sasaki
January 2008--Norio Sasaki becomes head coach of Nadeshiko Japan. (PHOTO 1)
February 2008--Japan wins East Asia women's soccer championship for first time. (PHOTO 2)
August 2008--Japan advances to semifinals for first time at Beijing Olympics. (PHOTO 3)
February 2010--Japan wins East Asia women's soccer championship for second straight time.
November 2010--Japan wins Asian Games gold medal in women's soccer for first time. (PHOTO 4)
June 2011--Japan wins Women's World Cup for first time. Japan beats Germany for the first time in the quarterfinals and defeats the United States for the first time in the finals. Homare Sawa chosen as MVP and top scorer. (PHOTO 5)
August 2011--Nadeshiko Japan presented People's Honor Award, becoming first group to receive the award. (PHOTO 6)
September 2011--Japan qualifies for the London Olympics with best record of six teams in Asia.
January 2012--Homare Sawa chosen by FIFA as women's player of the year for 2011, while Norio Sasaki is chosen as women's team coach of the year. (PHOTO 7)
July 25, 2012--Japan beats Canada 2-1 in a Group F match at the London Olympics. (PHOTO 8)
July 28, 2012--Japan draws with Sweden 0-0 in a group match. (PHOTO 9)
July 31, 2012--Japan draws with South Africa 0-0 in a group match. (PHOTO 10)
Aug. 3, 2012--Japan beats Brazil 2-0 in the quarterfinals. (PHOTO 11)
Aug. 6, 2012--Japan beats France 2-1 in the semifinals. (PHOTO 12)
- « Prev
- Next »