The road to Canada
Though crowned world champions four years ago, Japan had never won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, such has been historical strength of women’s football on their home continent. That finally changed in May 2014 as Japan secured two tight wins to end the eight-nation tournament as victors despite missing several key personnel. The Nadeshiko enjoyed comfortable wins over Jordan and Vietnam in the group stage, while also drawing 2-2 against holders Australia. They edged China PR 2-1 in the semi-final, before a hard-fought 1-0 win in the final against Australia with defender Azusa Iwashimizu the unlikely scorer of the historic goal.

Strengths and style
Japan’s breakthrough FIFA Women’s World Cup™ win at Germany 2011 was based around teamwork, short-passing and technical excellence. It is a methodology that remains a cornerstone of their game and is in keeping with the Nadeshiko Vision; Japan’s blueprint for women’s development. Japan boast few headline names, but rather they rely on teamwork and unity. They do however boast both depth and quality in attack and in creative midfield roles. Despite often being inferior physically to some of their opponents, few can outscore Japan for resilience and commitment.

The coach
Since taking the reins of the national team in 2008, Sasaki has been at the forefront of women’s football development, with his side receiving widespread praise for their skilful and fluent brand of football. A modest former player in his native Japan, Sasaki enjoyed a relatively low-key coaching career until a two-year stint as U-20 women’s national team coach and then as senior coach, the latter including a world championship crown and a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.

FIFA Women’s World Cup record
- Japan are one of the few nations to have featured in all seven FIFA Women’s World Cup, and are the only Asian nation to do so
- Japan were crowned world champions in 2011 despite only reaching the knockout stage on one previous occasion (Sweden 1995)

What they said
“The young players have shown me they have good potential and have experienced good lessons for the future,” Norio Sasaki, Japan coach