Five Things To Know: Japan

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Coming off a 2-0 victory over Canada to open the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, presented by Visa, the U.S. Women’s National Team returns to action on Sunday, Feb. 19, taking on Japan as the tournament moves to Nashville, Tenn. The teams will square off at GEODIS Park, the largest soccer specific stadium in the nation, with kickoff at 3:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. CT on TNT, HBO Max, Universo and Peacock.

Following the game between the USA and Japan, Brazil and Canada will face off at 6:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. CT (HBO Max, Universo, Peacock) to complete the day’s doubleheader.

Get set for Sunday with Five Things to Know about Japan…


While the USA opened the SheBelieves Cup with a win, Japan will be looking to bounce back after a 1-0 defeat to Brazil on Thursday night in Orlando, Fla. to open the 2023 SheBelieves Cup. Despite a 13-9 advantage in shots on goal, Japan managed to put only one of its attempts on target against Brazil and was punished in the 72nd minute when Brazil’s dynamic duo of Debinha and Marta combined for the game’s only goal.

Despite going down a goal, Japan – which had the better of play and possession in the first half – created two of its best chances on the day in the final 10 minutes of the match, but saw one attempt soar agonizingly over the bar and the second deflect down off the crossbar but not over the line as Brazil held on for the 1-0 victory.

Midfielder Aoba Fujino created a game-high five chances for Japan while goalkeeper Momoko Tanaka registered three saves on the day.

Japan previously competed in the SheBelieves Cup in both 2019 and 2020. In 2019, the USA and Japan drew 2-2 on the opening match day and Japan went on to finish third overall. In 2020, the USA defeated Japan 3-1 in the tournament finale in Frisco, Texas, on goals from Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press and Lindsey Horan. The victory sealed the tournament title for the U.S. while Japan finished fourth overall behind Spain and England, who took second and third, respectively.


Head coach Futoshi Ikeda has called in a youthful 23-player squad for the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, with just one player – 32-year-old defender Saki Kumagai – over the age of 30. Japan, which seems to always be in the middle of a youth movement based on its success at the youth international level, feature twelve players are under the age of 25, including three teenagers in defender Rion Ishikawa, midfielder Aoba Fujino and forward Maika Hamano.

Kumagai is by far the most experienced player on this roster with 132 caps and has represented Japan at the last three FIFA Women’s World Cups, including scoring the winning penalty against the USA in the penalty kick shootout during the 2011 FIFA World Cup Final.

Forward Mana Iwabuchi is the next most experienced with 86 caps and is the leading scorer on this roster with 37 international goals.

Kumagai currently plays her club soccer for Bayern Munich in Germany, leaving Olympique Lyon after the 2020-21 season following eight seasons with the French powerhouse in which she won five UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and at different times played with Americans Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Morgan Gautrat and Catarina Macario.

While Kumagai is the only player on this roster who plays her club soccer in Germany, 11 others are currently playing their club soccer outside of Japan. Five players, including Iwabuchi, play in England in the Women’s Super League, three in the United States, two play in Sweden and one in Italy.

Angel City FC midfielder Jun Endo and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Hina Sugita, who is teammates with the USA’s Becky Sauerbrunn and Crystal Dunn, are the NWSL representatives on this roster while uncapped goalkeeper Shu Ohba plays collegiately at East Tennessee State.

The other 11 players on this roster all play their club soccer domestically in Japan’s WE League.


Goalkeepers (4): 1-Ayaka Yamashita (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 17-Shu Ohba (East Tennessee State, USA), 18-Momoko Tanaka (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza), 21-Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata Ladies)

Defenders (8): 2-Risa Shimizu (West Ham United FC, ENG), 3-Moeka Minami (AS Roma, ITA,4-Saki Kumagai (FC Bayern Munich, GER), 5-Shiori Miyake (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 6-Rion Ishikawa (Urawa Reds Ladies), 12-Ruka Norimatsu (Omiya Ardija Ventus), 19-Saori Takarada (Linköping FC, SWE), 22-Kiko Seike (Urawa Reds Ladies)

Midfielders (7): 7-Hinata Miyazawa (Mynavi Sendai Ladies), 8-Fuka Nagano (Liverpool FC, ENG), 13-Jun Endo (Angel City FC, USA), 14-Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City FC, ENG), 15-Hina Sugita (Portland Thorns FC, USA), 16-Honoka Hayashi (West Ham United FC, ENG), 20-Aoba Fujino (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)

Forwards (4): 9-Riko Ueki (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza), 10-Mana Iwabuchi (Tottenham Hotspur FC, ENG), 11-Rikako Kobayashi (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza), 23-Maika Hamano (Hammarby IF, SWE)


Sunday’s matchup in Nashville will be the 39th meeting all-time between the USA and Japan and the first since the March 11 meeting at the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. That match, a 3-1 U.S. victory in which Rapinoe and Press scored magnificent first half goals and Horan added late insurance strike after Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi pulled on back in the 58th minute, was the last game the U.S. played for over eight months as the world quickly shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the teams now resume play in 2023, the USA leads the all-time series against Japan with an overall record of 29W-1L-8D. The USA’s lone loss in the series came during the 2012 Algarve Cup. Since then, the USA is unbeaten in the last 11 meetings between the teams, with seven wins and four draws in that span, including a 2-1 win in the 2012 Olympic Final and a 5-2 victory in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.

Alex Morgan has scored 12 goals in 14 career appearances against Japan, the most goals she has scored against any one opponent in her international career and the most goals scored against Japan by any player in USWNT history. One of those goals came in the 2011 World Cup Final, as Morgan opened the scoring in the 69th minute. Tied 2-2 at the end of regulation and following extra time, Japan eventually prevailed on penalty kicks, 3-1, to claim the World Cup title.

Rapinoe has five goals and six assists in 13 career appearances against Japan while Horan (2 goals) and Mallory Swanson (1 goal) have also scored in previous meetings with Japan.


Japan qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup by reaching the semifinal round of the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Despite falling to eventual champions China PR on penalties in the semifinal, that tournament run was enough for Japan to punch its ticket to a ninth consecutive Women’s World Cup. Japan is one of seven nations, along with the USA, Brazil, Germany, Nigeria, Norway and Sweden, to have qualified for every edition of Women’s World Cup.

Drawn into Group C for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Japan – like the United States – will play all three of its group stage matches in New Zealand. Japan will play its opening match on July 22, taking on World Cup debutant Zambia at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton/Kirikiriroa. Japan will plays its second group stage against Costa on July 26 in Dunedin/Otepo before traveling to Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-tara to face Spain in its final group stage match on July 31.

Japan’s best performance at the World Cup came during its title run in 2011, in which it became the first Asian nation to win a Women’s World Cup. Japan returned to the World Cup final again in 2015 but fell to the USA in the final 5-2 behind a hat trick from Carli Lloyd. Japan also finished runner-up to the U.S. at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, with a Lloyd brace in the final once again proving to be the difference.

After reaching the final of both the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, Japan finished second in Group D at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and fell 2-1 to eventual runner-up the Netherlands in the Round of 16.


While Japan’s Senior National Team has not reached a world championship final since 2015, its Women’s Youth National Teams – particularly the Under-20s - have had a great run of recent success. Japan won the 2018 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup and finished runner-up at the 2022 FIFA U-20 World Cup contested last August in Costa Rica. The 2020 edition of the tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eighteen-year-old Maika Hamano won the Golden Ball as the top player at the 2022 FIFA U-20 World Cup and also took home the Silver Boot after finishing the tournament with four goals. She was named to Japan’s roster for the 2023 SheBelieves Cup and came on in the 56th minute against Brazil to earn her second cap with the senior National Team.

Defender Sori Takarada is also on this roster and won the Silver Ball and Bronze Boot for Japan at the 2018 U-20 World Cup, finishing that tournament with a team-high five goals and three assists while playing in a more attacking role. The now 23-year-old Takarada had a brief stint in the NWSL with the Washington Spirit and now plays her club soccer for Linkopings FC in Sweden.

Japan fell to eventual champions Spain 2-1 in the quarterfinal of the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in a thrilling match that saw three goals scored in the final 24 minutes of the game. They were also eliminated in the quarterfinals of the U-17 World Cup in 2018, falling to New Zealand on penalties.