Japan coach rues referee’s decision
Takakura says ref's call, confirmed by VAR, was cruel as Holland reach last 8
The referee's decision to award Holland a late penalty against Japan in the Women's World Cup last-16 match yesterday morning (Singapore time) was one of many "cruel decisions" made by VAR during the tournament, said Japan coach Asako Takakura, after her side lost 2-1.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the 90th minute, Vivianne Miedema's shot was blocked by the arm of Japan skipper Saki Kumagai at point-blank range and VAR confirmed the referee's decision to award a penalty for handball.
VAR has been in the spotlight at this World Cup with many goals and offside calls being overturned after review, leading to player protests and criticism from managers, but Takakura said she could not complain.
"We created a crisis for ourselves," Takakura said.
"With VAR, sometimes cruel decisions have been made watching other matches.
"It happened to us too towards the end of the match. I'm sorry it happened, but we have to look forward and we must accept the decision."
Lyon defender Kumagai was in tears at full-time.
"It was a penalty, it struck my hand. It is very hard to accept. I am sad, but I know that that's football," said the 28-year-old.
Although Japan had their chances at the tournament, their physicality and intensity were not up to the mark compared to the European sides.
"It was a match (v Holland) we really could have won. We created lots of chances and it was unfortunate that we didn't take them," said Takakura, 51.
"We've been conscious about the physical size as we're not as tall or as strong as European players. Individually, we don't have as much power as them... There is room for improvement, we must continue to improve our skills and physical levels."
Takakura said Japan, who won the title in 2011 and also reached the final at the previous edition, were under pressure to perform which may have affected the squad that included 17 players who were playing in the World Cup for the first time.
"We are a young squad but, when you're on the pitch, age doesn't matter," Takakura said.
"We were runners-up in 2015, winners in 2011. We were happy that a lot was expected of us, but it was also a lot of pressure.
"We came here determined to play seven games. Some of the players' form did not improve during the tournament and some were injured.
"Those unexpected things happened and must be taken into consideration. Probably I didn't do well enough for the players."
Barcelona star Lieke Martens gave Holland the lead at Roazhon Park with a brilliant backheel flick. Japan's Yui Hasegawa equalised just before the break, but Martens kept her cool and scored the match-winning spot-kick.
The victory earned Holland their first quarter-final spot at a World Cup and will face Italy in Valenciennes on Saturday.
Martens admitted her side struggled through the closing stages, but said teams sometimes need a little luck to progress in the tournament.
"Sometimes you need a little luck and that's what we had. We had it really tough towards the end of the game, but it really doesn't matter. We are so happy with the victory," she said. - AFP, REUTERS
WOMEN'S WORLD CUP QUARTER-FINALS
- Norway v England (Tomorrow, 3am)
- France v United States (Saturday, 3am)
- Italy v Holland (Saturday, 9pm)
- Germany v Sweden (Sunday, 12.30am)
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