Utsugi: I really feel that I must step up – FIFA.com


  • Rumi Utsugi is one in all Japan’s most skilled gamers
  • She was a member of 2011 Ladies’s World Cup champion group
  • The defensive midfielder speaks solely with FIFA.com forward of France 2019

The narrative that can most probably be spoken about Japan on the FIFA Ladies’s World Cup France 2019™ can be in regards to the youthfulness of the squad. Success at U-17 and U-20 Ladies’s World Cups lately definitely exhibits that there’s expertise coming via, able to be examined on the highest degree.

Nonetheless, whereas youthful enthusiasm generally is a constructive high quality for any group, in the case of main worldwide tournaments, it must be balanced out by gamers who’ve been there and performed that.

Look no additional than Rumi Utsugi. The 30-year-old defensive midfielder has performed in three World Cups and is a tangible and essential reminder to each younger participant in head coach Asako Takakura’s facet that the “not possible” is feasible; they will turn into champions as a result of Utsugi has already performed it.

She was on the rostrum that evening in Frankfurt on 17 July 2011 when Homare Sawa lifted the World Cup trophy within the air as Japan shocked giants USA 3-1 on penalties within the Closing to turn into the first Asian nation to win the World Cup. That triumph was vastly vital for the nation, particularly amidst nationwide tragedy following the catastrophic Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan earlier the identical 12 months. It can’t be understated how essential that 2011 championship was for the way forward for ladies’s soccer within the nation.

A peripheral determine within the 2011 squad, Utsugi then obtained again to turning into an everyday starter – as she was at China 2007 – 4 years later at Canada 2015, main the group again to the decider, solely to lose out 5-2 to the USA.

Not solely will her World Cup-winning expertise be very important to the squad, however Utsugi spent six years enjoying for Montpellier, the place she grew to become the primary Japanese participant within the French prime flight. She now plies her commerce for Seattle Reign in USA’s Nationwide Ladies’s Soccer League (NWSL), enjoying with and towards many gamers that can characteristic at France 2019.

Earlier than the Nadeshiko land in France and kick off of their opening match towards Argentina on the Parc des Princes in Paris on 10 June, FIFA.com caught up with Utsugi to speak in regards to the state of the group and the way she views her position in it eight years after that life-changing night in Frankfurt.

FIFA.com: What sort of influence did the 2011 World Cup win have on ladies’s soccer in Japan?

Rumi Utsugi: Earlier than 2011, we had a a lot smaller inhabitants of girls who performed soccer in Japan. However since our victory in 2011, now we have extra gamers aspiring to turn into skilled or simply to play soccer for enjoyable. I’m so happy that the ladies’s soccer inhabitants has grown so dramatically in Japan since then.

How does the group we count on to see in France differ from the one which gained in 2011 and had been runners-up in 2015? How would you describe the facet now?

We’ve obtained much more younger gamers within the squad now and clearly the coach is completely different as properly. So, every little thing feels new. I feel, for upcoming tournaments, one in all our strengths can be that all of us have a shared perspective. That mentioned, you may see individuality from completely different gamers, which is kind of thrilling and motivating. From a private standpoint, I really feel that I must step up.

How would you describe the Japanese model of play and what you as a group wish to obtain on the pitch?

The Japanese model is often centred on organisation and clever motion, so we’ll try to mix these with inventive concepts and contemporary considering, that are particularly evident within the youthful gamers in our squad. These ought to be our strengths and I hope we’ll be capable to reveal them in our group play.


What does it absorb coaching, and the way a lot arduous work is it, to play that method?

Many of the nationwide group are at the moment enjoying within the Japanese league, so it’s straightforward for them to speak with one another regularly when coaching at membership degree. So, even once they’re at their very own golf equipment, every participant has a very good understanding in regards to the nationwide group model. For instance, they will have a two-hour excessive depth coaching session with the nationwide group in thoughts.

Nonetheless, for these of us who play overseas, the nationwide group is a really particular place. It’s a unique atmosphere from the place we usually play. Furthermore, Japan play a fairly particular model of soccer, so it’s essential for us to have the ability to visualise how we must always do this when enjoying (for Japan). Whereas it’s clearly essential to be in good condition bodily, I are inclined to concentrate on having a transparent thoughts and being mentally prepared.

Do you see your self as a pacesetter on this group? It’s a younger group, so do you take pleasure in taking over that position?

For me personally, as knowledgeable footballer you are inclined to have far fewer alternatives the place you may truly ‘take pleasure in’ your position. However I try to take pleasure in these moments once you face challenges and troublesome duties in so far as I can. As a senior participant, after all, you are feeling extra strain, and I do take that accountability extra severely as I become old.

Would you moderately win however not play in the way in which you wish to as a group, or lose however know that you simply performed your greatest recreation tactically and technically?

It’s a very troublesome query to reply as they’re polar opposites. Enjoying on your nationwide group, you’re representing your nation and due to this fact outcomes are all the time going to be essential. Nonetheless, at worldwide degree, you want gamers who can do each – play and reveal their very own model whereas nonetheless getting outcomes. In any other case you shouldn’t be within the squad.

I imagine that the gamers who’re right here representing Japan are in a position to say: ‘I’m doing each to 100 per cent of my capability.’ So, I’m proud that I’m versatile sufficient to have the intelligence and physicality to do each of this stuff.



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