I’m proud of my players: Sasaki

Nadeshiko Japan coach Norio Sasaki said he was proud of his players after they beat defending world champions Germany 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Wolfsburg, Germany, on Saturday.

Substitute forward Karina Maruyama struck a Homare Sawa pass from a tight angle in the 22nd minute of extra time to silence the 26,000 home fans.
“Germany played using their physical strength to attack our weak points, but our players played really patiently while waiting for their chance,” Sasaki said. “This is the product of our hard work over the last three years after we lost to Germany at the Beijing Olympics. I am proud of our players.” In the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, Japan bowed to Germany 2-0.
Sasaki said his side prepared well to face the tall and physically strong Germans by playing against teams such as Norway, Sweden and Finland in friendly matches before the World Cup.
“Our players remembered how to play them and that’s what they showed today,” he said. “Germany didn’t have their usual flexibility today and we put pressure on them before they found their rhythm. We went into the game as challengers and that worked too.”
Asked about Maruyama, Sasaki replied, “She shoots well. I have been telling our players that we should shoot more. If you don’t shoot, you won’t score, but today she did it.”
Germany coach Silvia Neid lamented the injury to midfielder Kim Kulig, who had to go off in the opening minutes.
“Her injury was really shocking for us and that didn’t help us start well,” Neid said. “She’s good at passing, but because of her injury we couldn’t play our passing game as much as we wanted.
“We had 15 set plays but couldn’t produce a goal. Even if we had continued playing for another few hours, we wouldn’t have scored today.”
Germany changed their team after beating France in their final group game.
“The Japanese players have a disciplined passing game that is different from the game we had against France,” the German boss noted. “Japan showed good teamwork in attack and Sawa showed a wonderful performance in her fifth World Cup. I wish them good luck for the rest of the tournament.”
Sawa commented, “To be honest, I am surprised. Our objective was to beat Germany one day – and we end up beating them in the World Cup.”
Asked about assisting on the winning goal, the 32-year-old midfielder said, “When I got the ball, I saw Maruyama running and the space behind the defenders was open, so I put the ball there.
“We just hoped we would be able to play our own football today. We had nothing to lose, but Germany might have been under pressure to win.”
Forward Maruyama commented: “It was a team goal. I am thankful to my teammates and my coach who continued using me patiently. I was told to change the course of the game.
“Sawa always cheers me up and did so again today. I’m so pleased that I scored from one of her passes. And it’s great that we can have two more games in the tournament.”
Japan will next play either Sweden or Australia in the semifinals on July 13.