Japan
© Foto-net

The past
The Japanese U-17 women’s team first began to take shape in September 2006, as they prepared for an assault on the 2007 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Malaysia. The runners-up spot secured during that competition automatically qualified them for the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup the following year. Staged in New Zealand, the tournament saw the young Nadeshiko impress onlookers with bright displays that took them all the way to the quarter-finals, before they were eliminated on penalties by England.

The present
Japan kicked off the final phase of the 2009 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Thailand with a 16-0 goalfest against Chinese Taipei and an equally impressive 3-1 win over China, before losing to group winners Australia. The semi-final saw Japan’s run come to an end, as they were defeated 1-0 in a tight encounter with eventual champions Korea Republic. In the match for third place, which also doubled as a play-off to decide the final Asian qualifying slot at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago, the Japanese gained revenge on Australia with a stunning 6-2 victory. The match showcased the predatory talents of Mai Kyokawa, the tournament’s top scorer, who struck four times.

The future
During a short preparatory tour of the United States in June, the Nadeshiko fell to defeat against Canada, but still managed two good wins over their American counterparts. “I hope to improve the skill level of my players so that they are capable of beating opponents that are likely to be stronger and bigger than them. On this tour, quite a few players have shown a greater desire to win,” explained Japan U-17 coach Hiroshi Yoshida.

Facts and figures

Former stars
Mana Iwabuchi, Chinatsu Kira, Natsuki Kishikawa.

Key players
Mai Kyokawa, Mina Tanaka.

Qualifying statistics
Japan recorded 3 wins and 2 defeats during their qualifying campaign, with 26 goals scored for seven conceded.

The numbers game
9 - the number of goals scored in qualifying matches by Japan’s lethal finisher Mai Kyokawa. The striker amassed the total in just two matches, scoring 5 against Chinese Taipei and 4 against Australia.