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The past
After missing out on the last two editions of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, Japan's crop of talented youngsters were runners-up in the AFC U-19 Women's Championship in China last year, with many of that squad also victorious at the AFC U-17 Women's Championship in Korea Republic in 2005, when they defeated China PR on penalties to take the regional crown.
In the qualifying tournament for Chile 2008, Japan emerged from a tough group containing Australia, Korea DPR and Myanmar. Japan won their first two games before going down 2-1 to Korea DPR in their final match. The Japanese then prevailed on penalties after a goalless semi-final against Korea Republic, with substitute goalkeeper Shiori Kobayashi as the hero that day. Korea DPR again provided the opposition in the final, and the Japanese lost out to a single goal.

The present
The Japanese Football Association have expended considerable energy and resources on developing women's youth football in the past year, including having the U-20 squad train with the senior national team. Indeed, the investment is already beginning to pay dividends, with a number of players successfully making the transition from the youth team to the Nadeshiko.
In December last team coach Norio Sasaki was put in charge of the senior team, steering the Nadeshiko to victory at the East Asian Women's Championship in Chongqing, China, in February.

The future
Sasaki spoke recently of how effective link-up play will be the key to Japan doing well on the world stage. "Even though we deploy good variations and have decent build up play, we need to link up more precisely. Football is about connecting defence and attack," the coach said.

The facts
Former stars
Miho Fukumoto, Aya Miyama, Yukari Kinga, Shinobu Ono, and Karina Maruyama.

Key players
Rumi Utsugi (a pivotal figure at last year's U-19 Championship and a member of the senior squad for the FIFA Women's World Cup China 2007), Saki Kumagai and Michi Goto (both of whom had already made their debut for the Nadeshiko).

Qualifying stats
Japan emerged as runners up in the qualifying tournament. They got 2 victories and one lost in the group phase, before winning the semifinals in the penalty shoot out against Korea Republic. They lost the final against Korea DPR.

The numbers game
2 - their second appearance at a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. Their first time was in Canada 2002, when they lost in quarterfinals against Germany.