On 11 March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake to ever hit the country and the fourth biggest in the entire world since 1900. The subsequent tsunami caused widespread devastation in Japan’s northern islands, killing thousands.
Less than four months later, the Japan Women’s national team shocked the world by beating USA in the World Cup final in Germany. Thousands of people back home stayed up late into the night to watch the drama unfold, and the emotions on the faces of the players told the story. Highlights were played continuously throughout the day for those who had missed it, whilst newspapers immediately released special edition copies to celebrate the triumph.
Former Arsenal duo Shinobu Ohno and Yukari Kinga reflect on the tournament and what it meant to their country…
Was the World Cup victory 2011 a shock to you or do you believe it was a case of other nations simply underestimating Japan?
YK: I think the earthquake that happened not long before the tournament really motivated the whole country. It couldn’t be predicted, we were really pleased for the Japanese people that we were able to win the World Cup so soon after that event.
SO: We’d had great support before the tournament because of what had happened but the result was what surprised people most. The victory was a result of our own work.
What was the key to your performances as a team that allowed you to overcome the likes of Germany, Sweden and France?
YK: It is important to understand the strengths, weaknesses and characteristics of other countries, we worked on that.
SO: Also, until the very end, you always have to believe in your teammates and the staff, we did that.
In perhaps the most competitive World Cup ever, do you believe you can successfully defend your title?
YK: No doubt that it will be just as difficult. I think it’s important to just take things step-by-step, one game at a time and see what happens.
SO: The most important thing is to forget that we are defending our title and approach it as though we are fighting our challengers again.
How much do you feel playing in England and the FA Women’s Super League has made you better players since the last tournament?
YK: I have found both strong points and weak points in my game since playing in England, but I think I found strong points and weak points in other players too, which may help this year. But I think women’s football in England has really grown.
SO: It was just the experience abroad for me. I think it became a really good thing for me, not just on the pitch but for me as a person, it was a great play for Arsenal.
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