Women's National Team
Nadeshiko aiming for new successes
Following their victory at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and winning the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games, the Japan women’s team are now looking ahead to the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sasaki Norio’s side have been looking to further develop their style of football and are also hoping to give more depth to their squad. To start 2014, the Nadeshiko took part in the Algarve Cup in early March and will play a friendly against New Zealand on May 8 before heading to the AFC Asian Cup (May 14-25) in Vietnam. The Asian Cup will serve as a qualifying tournament for the 2015 World Cup Finals in Canada.
Japan will meet Asian powerhouse Australia, hosts Vietnam and rising force Jordan in the group stage of the Asian Cup and will be aiming not only to make sure they finish in the top five, which will qualify them for the World Cup, but also to claim their first Asian title.
The Nadeshiko will play a friendly in Yamagata on September 13 before taking part in the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea Republic, from the middle of September. The Japanese ladies are scheduled to make a tour in Canada in late October as part of their preparations for the 2015 as the Nadeshiko head toward some big tournaments.
2012 Olympic Games
The Nadeshiko won the silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London after bowing to the United States 2-1 in the final, which was a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final. Ogimi Yuki scored in the 63rd minute to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Japan couldn’t find the target again.
Japan beat Brazil 2-0 in the quarterfinals and France 2-1 in the semifinals. In the group stage, Sasaki’s side finished second behind Sweden on goal difference after the two teams ended with similar 1-2-0 (win-draw-loss) records, which included a 2-1 win over Canada and 0-0 draws with Sweden and South Africa.
Although they missed out on the gold medal, it was the first time that a Japan football team – men’s or women’s – had won silver at the Olympic Games. The men’s team had previously won bronze at the 1968 Games in Mexico.
2011, a summer to remember
For Japanese football, 2011 saw a glorious summer as the Nadeshiko clinched the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time.
Japan started their campaign with a 2-1 win over New Zealand and then cruised past Mexico 4-0 on the back of a Sawa Homare hat trick. Their two straight wins in the group stage helped them secure a quarterfinal spot.
Although Japan fell 2-0 to England in their final group match and finished second in Group B, the Nadeshiko recovered well to stun defending world champions Germany 1-0 in the quarterfinals thanks to Maruyama Karina’s 108th-minute goal. Their first-ever win over the Germans put Japan into the semifinals for the first time, and they went on to beat Sweden 3-1 to reach the final. In the nail-biting final on July 17 in Frankfurt, Japan surprised the world by defeating the world’s top team, the United States. Japan won 3-1 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra time. The Nadeshiko had to come from behind twice and had Miyama Aya and Sawa to thank for two priceless goals.
Shortly before the final whistle, Japan went down to 10 players after defender Iwashimizu Azusa was sent off. But Japan goalkeeper Kaihori Ayumi did well between the posts, stopping two shots by the Americans in the penalty shootouts. Kaihori was named the Player of the Match, while tournament top scorer Sawa – with five goals – was named the Player of the Tournament.
Making an impact
Their success at the World Cup in 2011 made a strong impact not only on Japanese football but also on Japanese society, raising the spirits of the people in the aftermath of the March 11 East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that devastated many areas in northeast Japan.
After returning home from Germany, the Nadeshiko received the National Honor Award, becoming the first group to be honored with the prize.
Their achievement brought more to the game, too. Nadeshiko Women’s League matches featuring national team players drew many more fans, helping women’s football to gain greater recognition in the country.