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SPORTS | 10-06-2019 00:34

Albiceleste brace for daunting return to Women's World Cup

The Albiceleste face a challenging opening match as they return women's World Cup after a 12-year absence on Monday, taking on Japan at the Parc des Princes. 

The Albiceleste face a daunting return to the women's World Cup after a 12-year absence on Monday when they take on Japan at the Parc des Princes. 

While Argentina have been away, the Japanese have grown into one of the powers of women's football, winning the World Cup in 2011 and reaching the Olympic final the following year and the World Cup final in 2015.

"They are a technically gifted team, very fast, very tidy," Albiceleste coach Carlos Borrello told a press conference in Paris on Sunday. "We have to keep the ball so that we run less, if we don't we will have to run more."

"The most important thing about Japan is the speed, the change of rhythm and the permanent movement of all the players," he said. "The player with the ball always has passing options."

"I like how Japan play."

Borrello coached Argentina's women from 2003-2012 and took them to the 2003 and 2007 World Cups and to victory in the 2006 Copa América. After he left, things fell apart. When he returned in 2017, the Albiceleste had been without a coach for two years for two years.

"We lack decades of development to reach world levels," Borrello said. "But football has something special, the passion, the fury inside."

"I have confidence in my players," he said, mentioning the famous Argentine 'garra', literally a claw but more a metaphor for a refusal to let go in competition. "They are warriors. They give battle." 

Japan have already won a World Cup in France, taking the under-20 title last summer. Moeka Minami, Saori Takarada and Jun Endo have been promoted to a young squad, with 11 players aged between 18 and 22, that is building for the Tokyo Olympic tournament next year.

That might explain why Japan have struggled this year losing warm-up games to Australia, France and England.

One of the players who will supply the experience is captain Saki Kumagai, a member of the 2011 World Cup winning squad and she has a particular motivation to do well this time, because she is based in France where she has won four straight Champions League titles with Lyon.

"I want to play in the semi-finals and final in Lyon," Kumagai has said.

The Albiceleste have a Lyon player of their own in striker Sole Jaimes, who moved to the French champions earlier this year, appeared in five games and collected three winners medals as the club swept every competition.  

- TIMES/AFP

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