Japan
© AFC

The past
Japan’s history at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup follows a curious pattern, having twice reached the quarter-finals and twice failing to qualify. Asia’s performance at this level has been outstanding with the continent securing a podium finish at each of the last four occasions, missing out only at the maiden tournament ten years ago. Despite a number of current stars featuring down the years the closest Japan came to the last four was an extra-time defeat against Germany at Canada 2002.

The present
The Young Nadeshiko continued a stunning 2011 for Japanese women’s football by winning the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship. Japan collected 13 of a possible 15 points, drawing 1-1 in their opener against China PR thanks only to a Hamada Haruka deep into injury time. From there, however, Japan collected four successive wins in the highly competitive Asian qualifying region.

The future
Japan will rarely have such a good opportunity to end their relatively modest record at this level. The team enter the tournament as Asian champions, having secured the title for the second successive time. The Young Nadeshiko will also be boosted by playing on home soil, where support for the women’s game is strong, particularly on the back of the senior team’s stunning run to the world crown in Germany last year. Japan have a potential star in Mai Kyokawa with the forward named best player at the qualifying tournament with five goals, having been top-goalscorer at the AFC U-16 Women's Championship two year earlier, only to miss Japan 2012 with a serious knee injury. Yoko Tanaka and Kumi Yokoyama will likely provide much of the goalscoring impetus.

Facts and figures
Former stars
Yukari Kinga, Shinobu Ohno, Karina Maruyama (2002), Saki Kumagai (2008), Mana Iwabuchi (2010)

Key players
Yoko Tanaka (forward), Kumi Yokoyama (forward), Ikeda Sakiko (goalkeeper)

The stat
0
– The number of times Japan has reached the semi-finals at the FIFA U-20 Women’s Championship, compared to five last-four appearances by other Asian teams during the five previous editions.