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Japan will adapt to artificial turf, says Sasaki

World heavyweights in women's soccer Japan experienced first-hand what next year's Women's World Cup will be like in terms of playing on an artificial surface. Head coach Norio Sasaki shed some light on how his players reacted to the surface and how they will adapt to playing on artificial turf.

Japan head coach Norio Sasaki commands the sideline in his side's 3-0 win over Canada in the first of two friendlies between the two in Canada on Saturday.
Japan head coach Norio Sasaki commands the sideline in his side's 3-0 win over Canada in the first of two friendlies between the two in Canada on Saturday.
Derek Leung

Being the reigning Women's World Cup Champions from 2011 and silver medalists in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, it's hard not to acknowledge Japan's growing influence in the realm of women's soccer.

Speaking to the Edmonton and Japanese media through a translator on Saturday afternoon at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium following Japan's 3-0 win over Canada, Japan head coach Norio Sasaki addressed the experience of playing on the FIFA-approved artificial turf that will be present at all six of next year's 2015 Women's World Cup venues.

"There's no way that the balls could act irregularly," Sasaki said. "If we get used to it, I know we can handle it well. The stadium is wonderful, and it's very big. I think for the players it was very encouraging and a good opportunity for us to play here."

The quality of the turf has come into question over the past few months thanks to a consortium of elite female soccer players who filed a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal about the legitimacy of holding the major women's sporting event on artificial turf coupled with it's supposed damaging effects.

"Since our players are very short, we don't have a long reach and we do a lot of sliding," said Sasaki. "In that case, we have a lot of scratches on our feet and legs. I think we have to think about watering the pitch as a way to cope with that."

Sasaki's statement presents a couple key and compelling points in the turf argument surrounding next year's Women's World Cup. The turf may be more damaging than thought, but there could be more simple solutions than a full-scale change of the venues' surfaces.

How will a proven winner be forced to change its tactics in order to prepare for playing on an artificial surface as opposed to grass? Regardless, it's a testimonial that should provide some key insight and be taken into account due to Japan's success in the sport over the past few years. If Japan's approach to the turf is put simply in this case, is it more difficult for other countries to adapt to the change?