World champs Japan to test new talent
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Japan coach Norio Sasaki has named an experimental squad for next month’s Algarve Cup omitting a number of the Nadeshiko’s 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ winning stars.

Some of the absentees from the squad include 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa and captain Aya Miyama, as well as forwards Shinobu Ohno and Kozue Ando for what is the nation’s first matches since the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012.

“I sidelined some of our experienced players this time as I want these new players to gain some experience and see how they fit into our squad,” said Sasaki.

Several players have been rewarded for stellar performances at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup when the Young Nadeshiko came third on home soil. Uncapped pair Mina and Yoko Tanaka have been promoted to the senior side, as has 19-year-old forward Mai Kyokawa who missed Japan 2012 through injury.

Young forward Ami Otaki of European champions Lyon is another name to receive the call-up, having missed selection for Japan’s squad which won a silver medal at London 2012.

Sasaki assessed the players in a four-day training camp earlier this month, ahead of the prestigious eight-day tournament. 

“It’s a friendly tournament, but as the world champions we cannot afford to play poorly,” Sasaki said. “I hope our younger players can learn our game and skills from our Nadeshiko players and develop their game so they can add depth to our side during this coming tour.”

Making their third straight appearance in the Algarve, Japan will play Norway on 6 March, Germany on 8 March and Denmark three days later.

Group B features USA, Iceland, Sweden and China PR, while Group C is made up of Hungary, Mexico, Wales and hosts Portugal.

The 23-member Japan squad will get together on 25 February to start preparing for the tournament before flying to Portugal on 1 March.