India failed to withstand a second half storm against former World Cup champions Japan in their first match of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament Round 2, losing 0-7 at the Lokomotiv Stadium, in Tashkent, on Thursday.
India head coach Thomas Dennerby had set up a low block, playing a 5-3-2 formation, a strategy that worked well for the first 45 minutes, managing to keep the scoreline to a minimum 0-1 at half-time.
Majority of the defensive work fell on the shoulders of centrebacks Ashalata Devi, Sweety Devi and Ritu Rani along with central midfielders Sangita Basfore and Shilky Devi and Indumathi Kathiresan, who had their work cut out inside their own penalty area.
India had a few rare forays into the Japan attacking third in the opening exchanges, as Kathiresan sent a long ranger which was blocked by Hana Takahashi. The ensuing corner was dealt with by the Japan defence, and then continued an onslaught that lasted the length of the game.
Yoshino Nakashima was the first Japanese player to get her name on the scoresheet, entering the Indian penalty area from the left, to chip it into the top corner in the 17th minute.
The Indian defence played with resolution, restricting Japan’s attacks to wider areas, where fullbacks Dalima Chhibber and Sanju were given ample support by their corresponding centre backs.
An array of saves by goalkeeper Shreya Hooda and a brave goal-line clearance by Rani spelt hope for the Indians, who went into their dressing room just a goal down against the side 8th in the Fifa Women’s Rankings.
That tactic completely changed in the second half, however, when Japan began to use the wings to focus their passes into the centre, and that worked wonders for the Nadesheko.
They used low crosses from the flanks to the top of the penalty box and scored four goals in the 11 minutes following the restart. Nakashima scored her second of the match, before substitute Honoka Hayashi added a third. Mina Tanaka joined in on the act, scoring a header, and setting up Miyabi Moriya, to make the score 5-0 in Japan’s favour by the 56th minute.
Kiko Seike and Hikaru Naomoto rounded things off with two more goals, to make it seven in Japan’s favour.
India did have a last-ditch effort in injury time, as they looked to salvage some pride. Rani hooved a long one into the Japan box, where substitute Soumya Guguloth collided with Japan goalkeeper Chika Hirao; Anju Tamang picked up the ball in the melee, but her shot went over the cross-bar.
India will face Vietnam on Sunday, October 29, at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent at 15:30 IST.