Ahead of the 15th edition of the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup taking place in Spain and the Netherlands (1-17 July), we’re conducting a series of exclusive interviews with the participating teams. Today: Yuri Nagai (JPN).

The Cherry Blossoms will be playing their sixth consecutive FIH Hockey Women's World Cup. You had a really great finish in 2006 (5th place) and since then, your team has been a little bit struggling to be in the first half of the overall rankings of the World Cup. What does explain this and how can you invert this curve?

We've chased the top level in the world. In the past, we couldn't get the points like the top-level teams in the world but since we have a new head coach, we’ve got some talented players. Therefore, if we work hard, we are able to get these points.

Last year, you welcomed the world in Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Can you tell us about this experience and let us know the key learnings from these Games?

There was a chance to win matches. However, we couldn’t get the actual results. We learnt from the Tokyo experience. We’re moving forward with the head coach who gives us the things that we missed at the Tokyo Olympics. Now, we actually feel like we could win these matches. So, our purpose is to build up the team, based on teamwork. We trust each other and we will fight as a team to get good results.  

You won the Asia Cup earlier this year. This success opened the doors of the World Cup for your team. How much confidence does such a performance give to you?

This result gave us the confidence that the team is able to win a tournament like this, which is also connected to the World Cup. Even if the head coach had just joined the team at that time, we worked together and then built up the team through the tournament. We will bring that confidence to the World Cup.

What are your expectations as a team for the upcoming World Cup?

Japan’s best result is a fifth place at the World Cup. We’ll try to reach the highest ranking of the Japanese team this time.

You’re in a Pool with Australia, Belgium and South Africa. How do you look at these teams?

These teams have good physical players. But we also have some good skills. We will use those skills, and enjoy the game as well as the fight with them.

Which message would you like to give to your fans?

First of all, we will try to get our highest place ever. Then, we have some good chances to win the games. So, for our fans, we would like them to enjoy watching the games!