The USA and Japan met in three consecutive world finals in the first half of this decade at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 Women’s World Cup, forever linking these two countries together in soccer history. As the teams prepare to meet again at the 2018 Tournament of Nations, herearefivethingstoknowaboutNadeshiko Japan.
Japan Women’s National Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Sakiko Ikeda (Urawa Red Diamond Ladies), 18-Ayaka Yamashita (NTV Beleza), 21- Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata Ladies)
DEFENDERS (7): 2-Ruma Utsugi (Seattle Reign FC, USA), 3-Aya Sameshima (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 4-Shiori Miyake (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 6-Saori Ariyoshi (NTV Beleza), 22-Risa Shimizu (NTV Beleza), 23-Aimi Kunitake (Nojima Stella Kanagawa Sagamihara)
MIDFIELDERS (8): 7-Emi Nakajima (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 12-Hikaru Naomoto (Sport Club Freiburg, GER), 14-Yui Hasegawa (NTV Beleza), 15-Moeno Sakaguchi (Albirex Niigata Ladies), 16-Rin Sumida (NTV Beleza), 17-Yuka Momiki (NTV Beleza Beleza), 19-Rika Masuya (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 24-Narumi Miura (NTV Beleza
FORWARDS (5): 8-Mana Iwabuchi (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi (Seattle Reign FC, USA), 11-Mina Tanaka (NTV Beleza), 13-Yuika Sugasawa (Urawa Red Diamond Ladies), 20-Kumi Yokoyama (AC Nagano Parceiro Ladies)
AFC Champions and Qualified for France 2019
Japan, just like Brazil and Australia, the other participants of this year’s Tournament of Nation, has already booked its ticket for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, making them one of the few nations to have participated at every FIFA Women’s World Cup. Japan won the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, their second consecutive continental title.
Despite the winning the qualifying tournament in April, it was a challenging ride for Japan which defeated Vietnam, 4-0, and then had a scoreless draw against Korea Republic. A 1-1 draw against Australia (courtesy of a Mizuho Sakaguchi goal) in the final group match clinched second in the group and automatic passage to France. Japan then defeated China PR 3-1 in the semifinal and got late winner to defeat Australia 1-0 in the championship game.
Japan brought 12 players from its 2017 Tournament of Nations squad, but has named almost the same team that participated in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan as 18 players from its AFC Cup title winning team are at ToN this summer.
Japan enters the Tournament of Nations unbeaten in its last seven games overall (5-0-2). Japan has not allowed an opponent to score more than one goal over that span, which includes five games at the AFC Women’s Asia Cup that was sandwiched in between two friendlies in which Japan defeated Ghana, 7-1, and New Zealand, 3-1.
Japan had some mixed results at the 2018 Algarve Cup played in March in Portugal, falling to reigning European champion Holland 6-2 before beating Iceland, 2-1, and Denmark 2-0. Japan then lost the 5th place game to Canada, 2-0, but they did win the tournament’s Fair Play Award.
Woman in Charge
Japan head coach Asako Takakura assumed the reins in 2016 with big shoes to fill, as predecessor Norio Sasaki led Japan through a golden period which included two Women’s World Cup Finals – including the title in 2011 – and a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics.
The four-time Asian Women’s Coach of the Year made her National Team debut at the age of 16 and was a midfielder in her playing days. She earned 79 caps for Japan while scoring 30 goals. She played in the 1991 and 1995 World Cups, as well as the 1996 Olympics. She has been an integral part of the Japanese coaching infrastructure for years, having coached every age group from Under-13 upwards. She led Japan to the 2014 Under-17 Women’s World Cup title and the 2015 Asian U-19 Championship while also serving on the FIFA technical study group at the last World Cup. She also coached Japan to third place at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea, defeating the USA 1-0 in the bronze medal game.
Long-Time Rivals, Long-Time Respect
TheUSA and Japan have a rich history dating back to 1986, the second year of the U.S. WNT program. While the streak of meeting in three straight world finals ended at the 2016 Olympics, the matches between the USA and Japan have been some of the most watched women’s soccer games in history.
The USA lost in penalty kicks at the 2011 Women's World Cup Final after a 2-2 tie over regulation and overtime, but rebounded to win the 2012 Olympic goal medal game, 2-1, and the historic 2015 Women's World Cup Final, 5-2. Since falling in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final, the USA has gone 5-1-3 against Japan, outscoring them 21-10.
USA vs. Japan: One Year Between Meetings
The most recent meeting came at last year’s Tournament of Nations with the USA winning 3-0. Megan Rapinoe scored one of the best goals of the year in the 12th minute and the USA then broke open a tight game with goals from Mallory Pugh in the 60th and Alex Morgan in the 80th.
Nine players and seven starters who played against the USA in last year’s Tournament of Nations are on Japan’s roster while the USA brings 12 players from that match, including eight starters.
The USA holds an all-time record of 27-1-7 against Japan and has scored 100 goals while allowing 25.