Home Global Game Asia Japan’s stunning performance in WWC will have an effect in Canada

Japan’s stunning performance in WWC will have an effect in Canada


Fielding a team that’s mostly made up of players from the L-League — which can be called semipro, at best — Japan stunned Germany 1-0 after extra time at the Women’s World Cup.

The overwhelming favourites are out at the quarter-final stage.

But the Japanese upset will send shockwaves through the Canadian Soccer Association as well. Japan has smashed the idea that the European professionalism can’t be matched.

Yes, you can argue that if Japan and Germany were to play each other 100 times, the Germans would win 99 times. This Japan win was the soccer equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle.

But, it gives those in the Canadian Soccer Association who have been frustrated by the poor relationship between the CSA and national women’s-team coach Carolina Morace some very useful ammunition.

Morace spoke of Canadian players not having the level of competition as the European women, that they couldn’t compete when the Europeans have a level of professionalism that the Canadians can’t match.

Karina Maruyama
Now, we see Japan, a national team that has just four of its 21 players plying their trades outside of the women’s L-League, take out those European-trained and oh-so-professional Germans.

The woman who got the deciding goal, Karina Maruyama, plays her club football for JEF United. The men’s program plays in Japan’s second division — and is the home of Canadian midfielder Matt Lam.

Midfielder Homare Sawa was named the player of the match, and she plays at INAC Leonessa, the club that provided more players to the Japan roster than any other.

Japan trained at home ahead of the Women’s World Cup.

Again, Japan isn’t as good as many of the European sides on paper. But it’s clear from beating the hosts and two-time defending champion in extra time that the Japanese were mentally tough. They didn’t lose focus. They didn’t revert to booting the ball down the field when the going got tough.

And, ahem, most of them play in L-League, which isn’t a pro circuit.

So, what does it prove? That the talk about the lack of professionalism in Canada doesn’t adequately explain our nation’s three-losses-and-out performance at the WWC.

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  1. paul-collins

    July 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    I sometimes wonder about the confusion engendered in the use of the word professional. On the one hand, it suggests that the players should be paid to play (an understandable desire for the players); on the other hand it is used to describe an approach to a task.

    I think a lot of the discussion on player development, training etc. would be understood differently if we thought about a professional environment for the players in light of the second definition rather than the first.

  2. Coachrich

    July 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Key difference is the Japanese players, like Brazilian players, are playing in well-organized leagues that have longer seasons and huge player pools. More importantly, the teams are embedded in some of the best men’s clubs or academies in those countries. Their whole structure is that of a soccer culture and nation. IMO it’s pretty hard to compare that to what Canada doesn’t have. The Canadian soccer issue lays at the feet of the CSA as the parent of the family. They have yet to make a plan that impacts a country that everyone is born with a hockey stick and a puck rather than a soccer ball. In spite of all this they are ranked at #6 regardless if one likes the ranking system or not. Bottom line is they were over hyped in the press, they have spent decades fighting for their rights to have a better structure/model from the CSA who, by being a poor parent, has molded players that are no longer at the level of the rest of the world. Yep, the team took ownership for showing up to a match and panicked to go back to the old ways of dumping in the in and chasing it. An old way that doesn’t cut it in a world where the rest of the parents have created a culture with leagues and academies supported by the families oldest and successful sons. The failure of one game has all the more to do with a generation-old system run by an old head-in-the-sand NSO like the CSA and its system at every level.

    • footballnut

      July 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm

      Agree with a lot of this, Canada is a hockey-oriented nation and the team took ownership for their abysmal performance on the field.The person I did not see step up and take any ownership is the coach. Carolina Morace is a charismatic person with a huge ego. She got everything she asked for from the CSA prior to the World Cup and she did not have a team show up ready to play. She should have come forward and admitted that maybe her approach was mistaken, that maybe she does not have all the answers, that maybe working with soccer people in Canada instead of continually complaining and staging revolts among the players might build a team spirit that was apparent in press releases but obviously lacking where it matters most, on the field. The continual pointing of the accusatory finger at the CSA is getting very old. The CSA has done wonders over the past 20 years in bringing soccer to the point where it is the largest participation sport in the country. It has established regional player development and training, coaching and referee development facilities across the country. It has identified where improvements can be made in its governance and administration and is actively pursuing those improvements. The CSA faces several major obstacles the most crucial of which is funding. The majority of funding is derived from contributions exacted from every registered player in Canada. Canada is one of only three countries in the world reliant on this model of funding. The other two, Australia and the USA also receive massive government and sponsor support. The Canadian Government contributes a comparatively small amount to support soccer and puts strict restrictions on how the money can be used. The bottom line is that without money especially in a country the size of Canada the results will be slow in coming. I feel they will come but it will take time. I would see the biggest challenge the CSA has to deal with is to change the funding model. We need to get away from taxing our players and thereby inhibiting the growth of the game and move to a funding model that will support a first rate program. To say the CSA is at fault for not supporting soccer is just not true and definitely a very simplistic approach that ignores the realities that the CSA and soccer in Canada has to contend with. Please let’s stop the complaining, get behind the CSA and help the organization achieve what they, we and all soccer people in Canada want, a winning team.

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