“The U-17 players are the product of our youth training methods, which promote the philosophy and principles of attacking football,” explained manager Futoshi Ikeda. The former Urawa Red Diamonds defender is perfectly placed to pass comment on Japan’s football identity, having led his country to victory at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France back in August.
“Decision-making is the key. Having the technical fundamentals is not enough, you have to be able to call upon them at the right time,” added the 48 year-old coach. “Then it’s about mastering the positional game. The reasoning behind each decision is always linked to the position of the other players on the pitch.”
Ikeda, one of the many architects behind Japan’s impressive achievements in the women’s game, is thus clear about what he considers to be the ingredients of that success.
However, he is still searching for the answer to another conundrum: why is it, tournament after tournament, that Japan’s women’s teams seem to find goals so easy to come by? The Little Nadeshiko’s average goals per game at U-17 World Cups is twice that of their male counterparts. “I too would like to understand why,” said Ikeda. “After all, the players grew up with the same football identity.”