``This is a match that will determine the future of women's soccer in Japan, a game that we cannot afford to lose in order to restore the popularity of women's soccer.'' This is the

biggest thing that the players who will be competing in the final Asian qualifiers to qualify for the Paris Olympics said.

Nadeshiko Japan clinched the ticket to Paris with their solid play as a team.

(Sports News Department reporter Koji Fukushima)

[Click here for details] Nadeshiko Japan qualified for Paris Olympics, defeats North Korea

The venue for the first qualifying round was changed from the originally scheduled North Korean capital Pyongyang, and was finally announced to be held in Saudi Arabia three days before the match.

While North Korea prepared for the match by holding a long-term training camp in a relatively warm place in China, Japan was unable to prepare satisfactorily due to delays in the arrival of overseas players due to the change in venue.

The first game was a tough battle, ending in a draw.

In the first game, North Korea, which has studied Japan, took an unexpected tactic of tightening its defense, and Japan was unable to create many chances and narrowly drew the match.

Compared to North Korea, Japan did not seem to have the level of penetration of their tactics or the condition of their players.

Formation changed for the second match

Then, the second match took place three days after middle school.

In order to increase the number of attacking players, Japan changed their formation to a three-man defensive line.

We chose a fighting style in which players from both sides actively participate in the attack.

However, what led to the victory was not just these tactical changes, but also the ``determination to win'' shared by the players.

Hana Takahashi sneaks in to take the lead

In the 26th minute of the first half, Hikaru Kitagawa, who was included in the starting lineup, patiently connected with a free kick, and Hana Takahashi took the lead when Minami Tanaka's header bounced off the crossbar.

GK Yamashita Kyoka defends well

On defense, goalkeeper Kyoyaka Yamashita made a big play, blocking an opponent's shot just past the goal line, and the defense also put their bodies on the line to protect the goal.

After the match, captain Saki Kumagai looked back with a relieved expression.

Captain Saki Kumagai

: ``I don't really like to say ``spirited'' or ``spirited,'' but I think today's team confirmed to each other before the game that we wanted to win, and we were able to play.

Japanese women's soccer has been in a slump since the Nadeshiko fever after winning the World Cup in 2011 was short-lived, and the team lost in the final Asian qualifying round in 2016, missing out on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

On this day, 20,777 spectators visited the National Stadium.

It was unusual for Nadeshiko Japan to have more than 20,000 spectators for a domestic match.

``We will not let Japan's women's soccer go backwards again.''

The players of ``Nadeshiko Japan'' showed a heartfelt play in front of a large audience.

This victory not only earned them a ticket to the Paris Olympics, but was also a major win that shed light on the recovery in popularity of women's soccer.

The games that decided to participate in the Paris Olympics are now being streamed on NHK Plus↓↓↓ [Distribution deadline: until 3/6 (Wednesday)]

[Now streaming on NHK Plus] Women's Soccer Nadeshiko Japan x North Korea 2nd match