Sawa expecting tough games in Olympic qualifiers

Seeking one of two berths available in next year’s Olympics, the Nadeshiko Japan women’s team will open their qualifying campaign on Thursday against Thailand in Jinan, China.

Japan are aiming for their third straight spot in the Summer Games and fourth overall. Japan midfielder Homare Sawa said on Wednesday she is expecting a tough tournament against their Asian rivals.
“Every team will come out to beat us,” said Sawa. “And there are no playoffs. We need to make sure we get one of those two slots.”
The Nadeshiko captain went on, “We won the World Cup, but the Asian qualifiers are a different competition and they're tough. We need to reset our focus well and concentrate on the games.”
Sawa, who was named MVP of the Women’s World Cup, added: “We have to play five games in a hard schedule. Keeping good fitness will be important to be successful.”
Nadeshiko boss Norio Sasaki said his side is ready for the tournament.
“Our team condition is good,” said Sasaki, “We have prepared so that any one of our players can take the pitch and do well.”
“Our players and I know the Asian qualifiers are not easy to compete in, but I don’t see any problems in the football we have worked on. Solidarity and conditioning will be the key elements for us,” Sasaki noted.
Following the Thailand game, Japan will play Korea Republic on September 3, Australia on September 5, DPR Korea on September 8 and hosts China on September 11 in a single round-robin tournament. The top two finishers will earn a ticket to London next summer.