Japan’s star continues to rise in global terms, not that the Nadeshiko have been poor performers in the past. Consistently strong showings at youth World Cups in recent years have seen their senior national team stocked with solid depth across all positions. An unlucky group stage elimination at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup was followed by an equally unfortunate penalty shoot-out defeat in the final of the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. Fast and technical approach play will test any team and Japan will be quietly confident of success after years of underachievement where they have reached the knockout stage on just one occasion.
The road to Germany
Though only finishing third in the 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, the Japanese impressed as much as any team at the eight-nation tournament in China. The Nadeshiko won four of their five matches in the highly competitive Asian qualifying competition, including a group encounter against Korea DPR and the crucial play-off against China. The only failing was an unlucky 1-0 semi-final defeat against eventual champions Australia in which the team created a host of goalscoring opportunities.
The star players
Japan have an array of attacking talent led by Duisburg forward Kozue Ando who scored three goals in qualifying. Teen sensation Mana Iwabuchi received her much-anticipated first senior call-up in February 2010 with the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup adidas Golden Ball winner scoring a brace in her second outing. The midfield is equally strong with diminutive Aya Miyama already a veteran despite being in her mid 20s. The jewel in the crown remains Homare Sawa, with the captain -whose international strike-rate is a goal every other game - looking to play in her fifth FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
Although only taking the reins in early 2008, Japan coach Norio Sasaki is highly versed in the women’s game. The astute Sasaki has led the Japanese at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and two AFC Women’s Asian Cups, with the team continuing to progress up the world rankings during this period. Sasaki also guided the Nadeshiko to fourth at the 2008 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament as the team reached an unprecedented high.
Previous FIFA Women’s World Cups