Sasaki steps down as Japan coach after Rio failure

The Equalizer Staff March 10, 2016 39
Norio Sasaki stepped down as Japan coach after the team failed to make a fourth straigth Olympics. (Getty Images)

Norio Sasaki stepped down as Japan coach after the team failed to make a fourth straigth Olympics. (Getty Images)

Japan has parted ways with Norio Sasaki after eight years, the federation announced on Wednesday.

Sasaki led Japan to a miraculous triumph at the 2011 World Cup just months after the nation was devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami, killing almost 16,000 people. He was also in charge of the Nadeshiko in leading them to a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and a runners-up finish at the 2015 World Cup, losing to the United States both times.

[MORE: Sweden becomes final team to qualify for 2016 Rio Olympics]

Japan failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing third in qualifying behind Australia and China, who prevailed from a round-robin competition.

“Leaving the team doesn’t mean that I lose all responsibility for us not qualifying. Now the players have to look ahead to future competitions,” Sasaki said.

“The thing I hope I’ve left is a feeling that this team has the possibility of achieving something. We weren’t able to do it this time, but the team will come back.”

Sasaki finished second in the 2015 Women’s World Coach of the Year voting. Japan was seeking its fourth consecutive appearance at the Olympics.

The U.S. will play Japan in a pre-Olympic friendly this year, as first reported by The Equalizer last month.

  • Cc W

    The shock started 7 minutes into the final and Japan still hasn’t recovered from the US win. Not that surprising – it happens all the time in sports. A team loses a final and wilts away. Losing Sawa isn’t helping them either.

    • Movement

      Teams have figured out how to beat Japan.
      I called it 5 years ago.
      You can have to get in their grill, pressure them like mad, force them to feel “uncomfortable” when building their possession.

      Their game is predicated on feeling “confident” of building possession.
      Japan folds when they get pressure. They are very smart, but mentally weaker than most teams when you get in their face with pressure. That are that finesse of a team.

      • Terry Lash

        High level club and national teams usually change coaches frequently. Two reasons for these changes are to help teams be more adaptable to evolving techniques in the game and to prevent teams from becoming too predictable. It is unlikely that top teams will remain competitive if they keep a coach too long, although there are exceptions (for instance, Arsene Wenger and former coach Sir Alex Ferguson.

        • mockmook

          So, there is hope that our long, national JE nightmare will soon be over? 🙂

          • Steglitz49

            One world cup won, the first for 16 years. Yes, the nightmare is over.

          • Terry Lash

            A qualified “yes.” Gulati unfortunately is still in charge. Second, at this point the talent on the USA team means success almost regardless of who is coach. So JE might be good enough and fortunate enough to hang on until her contract ends after the next WWC.

          • Steglitz49

            Though I agree in principle with your assessment, no doubt people felt the same in 1999 and Germans in 2007. It turned out different; very different indeed.

      • Craigaroo

        Yeah, you called it 5 years ago and in the meantime they took silver in the Olympics and runner-up at the last World Cup…

    • Tom F

      It’s going to be an new era of US dominance now that they got an successful pro league(NWSL). It’s got more to do cause of the popularity of woso in this country(even Germany struggles with under 1K attendance in their pro league)

      • Lorehead

        The USA’s big advantage is that half the female soccer players in the world are American. It’s safe to say that the training they got was worse than even the training our boys got, although there’s been a real push to improve it over the past few years. The training parents can buy their daughters for $6K–10K a year is serious business.

        The development system for other countries’ girls is even further behind.that of their boys, to the extent that the NCAA for elites who want to send their daughters to an American college and the American diaspora don’t substitute for one entirely.

        But, right now, the USA seems to be in a virtuous cycle where WoSo is popular and socially-approved, which makes a lot of girls play it, which keeps the USWNT winning, which keeps the sport popular and socially-approved. From FIFA data, Germany has sort of the same thing going on, but not to the same extent, and Scandinavia is ahead of the curve for women’s equality generally.

        • Tom F

          doubt if there’s really any competition out there for the US, they’ve haven’t lost to #2 Germany since 2003/ What I would like to see is the USWNT take on the likes of the Seattle Reign.. With the add on of the super fast winger, Manon Melis, thy could go unbeaten this year in the NWSL, and possibly beat any NT in the world as well

          • Steglitz49

            Melis’s NL did not qualify for the OG so she will be available all season. Next season one expects her to make herself available for Euro-17 and therefore play in Europe. At 29 she is coming towards the end of her career.

          • Lorehead

            The Reign’s best year was 2014, when three teams beat them. FC Kansas City, which beat them once and drew them twice, got tag-teamed by Father Time and the Stork. But the Red Stars have gotten better since then, and the Thorns much better. And the Thorns and Reign will play four times. The Pride are new, and their roster, while it might not have actually played yet, looks great on paper.

            No team in American Pro WoSo has ever gone undefeated all season, and the league is set up to make it almost impossible. So that’s only true for a very literal definition of the word “could.”

          • mockmook

            ORL looks “good” on paper, not great.

            And, it is only their starters that look good, They have no depth.

            Possible playoff team, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

            SEA, Wash, CRS, POR all look better. I suspect FCKC will find a way to threaten, even Boston is intriguing.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point is well taken. It will further raise the profile of the club team games and also the Confederation championships like the AFC and Euro.

  • brdn08

    I’m surprised he lasted this long. Amazing how average Japan looked when the luck runs out.

    • You don’t win a World Cup without talent.

      • brdn08

        Yeah Aya Miyama carried that team. Alas, dragging all that dead weight finally caught up to her.

        • Tunechi241

          You think Aya Miyama won the World Cup, Silver Medal, AFC Cup and 2nd place in WWC all by herself ? No matter how charismatic you are, you cannot magically make people talented.

          • Steglitz49

            S/he is still sore because the Nadeshiko won WC-11. The ROW rejoiced with the Nadeshiko.

        • ishneak

          pretty sure Homare Sawa was a bigger reason they won. look at what happened when she left them.

  • Steglitz49

    Thanks for the memories! Enjoy your retirement.

    Sasaki’s record is there for the ages. Japan winning the World Cup in 2011 was an enormous lift for WoSo. He brought new strategies and tactics to WoSo.

    Apparently, Sasaki wanted to step down after OG-12 because he felt that the journey was complete. The players persuaded him to carry on and they continued to do well.

    With Even Pellerud, he is the NT coach that has had the biggest impact on the game so far.

    • Nicole C.

      Sasaki isn’t retiring, not from coaching anyways.

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    • Rdalford

      The women’s soccer united site is reporting that Sasaki has been offered GM job with men’s club team Omiya Andija so appears he may move back to men’s side. Same article also claims that Asako Takakuro-Takemoto who currently coaches U20 & U23 teams (and previously coached U17) is leading candidate for senior WNT coach position but she wants to stay with U20 thru 2016 U20 WC in Nov/Dec. Will be interesting to watch the transition as the U17 group (players and coach) move on to U20 and senior levels and see whether Asako (or who ever is chosen as Japan’s WNT coach) can build on solid record that Sasaki and the WC 2011 team have established.

      • Lorehead

        It’s nice to see WoSo become less ghetto-ized. A couple of years back, Hope Solo (who else?) had a few choice words for how women often get saddled with “failed” male coaches.

        • Steglitz49

          It is hard to see either Norio Sasaki or Even Pellerud as “failed coaches” even if they are male.

          • Lorehead

            This wasn’t in the context of national-team head coaches.

          • Steglitz49

            There are successful coaches in WoSo and there are unsuccessful ones just like there are in the men’s game. Is there in the US a big migration of failures in the men’s domain to the ladies’ domain? It is not obvious that it is so in Europe.

      • Steglitz49

        Thank you. Many of us commenting on the EQ have suggested that this lady might take over the NT.

        Oddly no rumors in Sweden yet who might take over from Pia.

    • Nicole C.

      O/T: West Ham defeated the Spurs 1-0 this week. The headline was this vicious head stomp by the Spurs’ Alex Keown that wasn’t caught by the ref. The West Ham player (Whitney Locke) has indicated she is OK.

      • Steglitz49

        Strange. The only headlines I could find was: “Ladies stun Spurs under the lights” (the Hammers’ home page) and “Ladies left flat by Upton Park loss” (Spurs’ home page). Neither report mentions the incident!

        The TV-footage does not give enough details. What was the official match report?

        The match was played under floodlights and 1741 souls braved a chilly evening.

        • Nicole C.

          I came across the clip via SM with the usual condescending caption and noticed the uniforms. Search “Spurs vs West Ham Ladies” and you will see some articles about it.
          The attendance smashed WHU’s previous home record sevenfold.

          • Steglitz49

            What were you looking for that you found it?

            Where is the evidence that she purposely stomped on as opposed to accidental contact? What did the players say about the matter afterwards?

            They play in a division below the FAWSL2, like in an NWSL3.

      • mockmook

        I’d call it a “step”, not a “stomp”. You don’t get up from a stomp.

        • Steglitz49

          A classic example of a WoSo own goal. An accidental contact gets blown out of proportion and then goes viral and fans of WoSo repeat it instead of letting it lie.

  • Steglitz49

    On a sad note, Doncaster Belles’s midfielder Ashleigh Mills has had to give up playing at the age of 20. This is because she has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She was an England youth talent in the making having played in U19.

    Since joining Doncaster a couple of years ago, versatile midfielder ‘Millzy’ aka “Ash” has flourished as a player – winning the club’s Young Player of the Year Award in her debut season. Ash has been a well-loved member of the ‘Belles Family’. Thus, it is a heavy heart for the club and the fans.

  • woso32rooter

    Out of sight but not out of mind- Japan’s Sasaki’s. I’m sure we have not seen the last of him. He’ll be busy seeding the National Team with new talent.

  • Rdalford

    As many people predicted, Women’s Soccer United site is reporting that Asako Takakura-Takemoto (U17 and U20 coach) has been appointed Japan’s WNT coach

    Asako Takakura-Takemoto has been appointed as Japan Nadeshiko team head coach, making her the first woman to take the senior role. – See more at: