Underdogs Japan ready to topple giants US

Japan coach Norio Sasaki has said his side are ready to pull off another giant-killing in Sunday's women's World Cup final when they take on two-time winners the USA in Frankfurt.

Underdogs Japan ready to topple giants US
Photo: DPA

Despite their nickname Nadeshiko – a flower symbolising grace and beauty – the Japanese have earned a reputation as giant-killers by knocking out the hosts in the quarter-finals and Sweden in the last four.

They face a formidable challenge in the USA – traditionally the super-power of women’s football – who are bidding for a third World Cup title after their victories in 1991 and 1999.

History is against the Japanese who have never beaten the Stars and Stripes in 25 meetings with the USA enjoying 22 wins to three draws: in those games, the USA have scored 77 goals while the Japanese have netted only 13 times.

But Sasaki says his side have got stronger as the tournament has progressed and feels this is their time.

“We won against Germany and Sweden, that was empowering and it helped to let us know how strong we really are, the players have got stronger so why not tomorrow?,” he said.

“As trainer of Japan, I have lost five times to America, so this is a good time for the gods of football to give me a victory over them.”

Japan have already played the USA three times in 2011 – twice in warm-up games in May, when the USA won 2-0 on both occasions, and the Stars and Stripes beat the Japanese 2-1 at the Algarve Cup in March. But Sasaki says much has changed since then.

“When we played the US team in May, they were already in good shape, but the Japanese team had only just assembled and weren’t in as a good condition, so losing wasn’t that surprising,” he said.

“We didn’t have much time to prepare for this tournament and we have developed game by game and got better and better. We want to try and take this experience through to the London Olympics.”

Japan captain Homare Sawa is a contender for player of the tournament and says her side are determined to make history by beating the USA.

“We came here to go for the top and now the football gods have offered us the chance and the stage to do that, even against America,” said Sawa.

“We don’t feel the pressure, we just want to take our chance. We have to give 100 per cent and work together, we have to work hard to steal balls in defence.”

Having played in five World Cup tournaments, the 32-year-old refused to say whether victory on Sunday could lead to her retirement.

“I am not thinking about the future right now, just about tomorrow’s match, nothing past that,” she said.


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British football teams allowed to skip Germany’s quarantine for Euro 2020

Germany's government announced on Tuesday it will allow England, Scotland and Wales to enter the country without quarantine to play at Euro 2020 despite a recent rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Britain.

British football teams allowed to skip Germany's quarantine for Euro 2020
One of the venues for Euro 2020 is in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

The three teams could potentially reach the quarter-final held in Munich on July 2nd.

If that were the case, they would be exempt from the rule that travellers from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland must currently observe a 14-day isolation period due to the virus strain of concern – Delta – first identified in India.

“The people accredited for the European football Championship are exempt from the quarantine obligation, even after arriving from an area impacted by a variant” Berlin said in a statement.

“This exemption concerns all the people who have been accredited by the organising committee for the preparation, participation, the holding and the follow-up of international sporting events,” it added.

The exemption does not include fans, who will be obliged to follow German government self-isolation rules.

Germany declared the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ on May 23rd due to rising cases linked to the Delta variant in parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany makes UK ‘virus variant area of concern’: How does it affect you?

This reclassification came just seven days after the UK was put back on Germany’s list at the lowest risk level, and barely a month after it was taken off all risk lists completely.

The ban was put in place despite the UK’s relatively low Covid rates as a precautionary measure.

A general ban on entry is in place for people coming from countries on the ‘virus variant’ list – such as India and Brazil – the highest of Germany’s risk categories. 

There are some exceptions for entering from these countries – for example German residents and citizens. However, anyone who does enter from Germany is required to submit a Covid-19 test before boarding the flight and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

Euro 2020 starts on Friday as Italy host Turkey in Rome with the Bavarian city hosting three group games as well as the last-eight match.

Around 14,000 fans will be allowed into the Allianz Arena for the fixtures.