'Room for improvement' - youthful Japan hope Scotland win is just the start

Rennes (France) (AFP) –


Japan coach Asako Takakura insisted there is more to come from her young team after the Nadeshiko gave their women's World Cup campaign a shot in the arm by beating Scotland 2-1 in Rennes on Friday.

Mana Iwabuchi set the 2011 winners on their way and Yuika Sugasawa converted a penalty as Japan closed on qualifying for the last 16, just four days after a disappointing display in a goalless draw against Argentina.

Takakura's side, ranked seventh in the world, will now go into their final Group D game against England with a chance of topping the section, which would ensure a more favourable draw in the last 16.

"It was a must-win game and, although there were difficult moments, we needed to be aggressive and score goals, and that is what we did," said the coach, whose starting line-up featured six players aged 23 or under, including 19-year-old Jun Endo.

"We were not really able to be ourselves in the first match, but we really had to win this game and I think we were more like ourselves again.

"We have beaten a wonderful Scottish team, but there is room for improvement so we will discuss how we can get better."

- Too little, too late -

Scotland got a goal back late on through substitute Lana Clelland, but they will be disappointed at offering nothing going forward until it was too late, just like in their opening defeat against England.

As they had done in that match, they found themselves 2-0 down at half-time before more than 13,000 fans at Roazhon Park, including a large Scottish contingent and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

"We obviously conceded two bad goals from mistakes. Take that out of the game and it's much closer," said Scotland coach Shelley Kerr.

"I thought we saw the real Japan today. Their movement was incredible -- we knew it would be, and we tried to set up in a way to stop them. In spells of the game we didn't do that, which sometimes can be understandable because you're playing against world-class players."

A poor headed clearance by captain Rachel Corsie led to Japan taking the lead midway through the first half as Iwabuchi sent a shot high into the net from the edge of the area.

Japan were handed the chance to increase their lead in the 37th minute when Sugasawa felt a slight pull from Corsie in the box and went down.

Sugasawa duly dispatched the penalty, and Hina Sugita then hit the bar from close range.

Scotland did better in the second half, helped by the introduction of Claire Emslie, who had scored against England.

Erin Cuthbert hit the woodwork from close range before Clelland, of Fiorentina, did find the net from 25 yards with two minutes to go.

It proved to be a mere consolation, and their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 at their debut World Cup are slim before a final group game against Argentina in Paris.