Nadeshiko draw with USA in Algarve Cup opener

 The Japan women’s team rallied to draw 1-1 with the United States in their opening match of the Algarve Cup in Portugal on Wednesday.
 In a rematch of the 2012 London Olympic Games final, the Americans, featuring three players from their Olympic gold medal-winning team, came out aggressively from the start and put the Japanese under pressure.
 Japan played with nine of their victorious 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup squad, including Sawa Homare, Ogimi Yuki and Kumagai Saki, but the Nadeshiko players struggled to combine well.
 After the first half finished 0-0, the United States broke the deadlock in the 59th minute when Japan goalkeeper Yamane Erina’s kick hit the left foot of Sydney Leroux and ended up in the Japanese net.
 Japan leveled the scores when Miyama Aya curled in a free-kick from mid-range in the 82nd minute.
 Nadeshiko coach Sasaki Norio said, “It’s still early for many of our players to be playing matches around this time of the year as we haven’t started the season in Japan, so we are at the stage of getting our techniques and tactics working.
 “So, today’s first priority was not to lose the game and our players made good efforts in defense, which brought the Miyama free-kick. We will play better when our players find better game fitness.”
 Miyama said, “I kicked the free-kick as I had pictured it in my mind. We let them in when we couldn’t combine well in defense.”
 Sawa Homare said, “The United States played with different players but still they were strong and fast. We couldn’t keep possession well and looked sluggish in our moves. I wish we could have shown the good parts of our game more.”
 Japan will next play Denmark on Friday before facing Sweden on Monday in the group stage.