The Japan national women's team has arrived in Europe where they will play their first two matches under newly appointed Head Coach, Futoshi Ikeda.
The tour begins with a match against Iceland on Thursday before facing off against their Tokyo 2020 competitor Holland on Monday. Holland are much tougher of the two opponents.
The two friendlies serve as an opportunity for Ikeda to trial and refine his best system in preparation for the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup scheduled to kick off in January.
Just 10 of the 18 players selected for the Tokyo 2020 tournament have made Ikeda's final cut as the former Urawa Reds defender appears to be opting for a slight change in personnel.
Arsenal's Mana Iwabuchi and West Ham United's Yui Hasegawa will be returning to the forward line while center back Saki Kumagai of Bayern Munich seems likely to retain the armband.
Japan's newly founded professional women's league, the WE League, is well represented with a total of 18 domestic players making up the 23 player squad.
Hana Takahashi (MHI Urawa Reds Ladies), Yui Narumiya (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Hinata Miyazawa (Mynavi Sendai Ladies) and Rikako Kobayashi (Tokyo Verdy Beleza) are some of the notable domestic inclusions to this Nadeshiko roster.
Meanwhile dynamic playmaker Narumi Miura (Tokyo Verdy Beleza) misses out through injury while Tokyo 2020 star Yuzuho Shiokoshi (MHI Urawa Reds Ladies) has recently returned from a spell on the sidelines and is likely to be absent for similar reasons.
Star goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita (INAC Kobe Leonessa) is a curious omission from Ikeda's 23 player lineup given that she has conceded just one goal from nine matches played at club level this season. Momoko Tanaka (Tokyo Verdy Beleza) and Hannah Stambaugh (Omiya Ardija Ventus) will be joining probable first choice Sakiko Ikeda (MHI Urawa Reds Ladies) to fill the three goalkeeping places.
Ikeda aiming for a swift return to the glory days for Japan
After a disappointing display at Tokyo 2020 the Nadeshiko are aiming to return to their glory days as quickly as possible. Historically they are known for their possession based system that allows them to retain the ball in the opponents half for long periods of time.
As of late, however, the 2011 World Cup winners have struggled to break defensive lines and are far from clinical in finishing when they do.
Ikeda's training efforts seem to have focused on space manipulation when in attack and instant pressure high up the pitch when defending. The likely aim here is to discover ways of playing through teams while winning back possession in favorable areas when the ball is lost. The end product should be a Nadeshiko side with a little more appetite for risk and creativity.
Iwabuchi, who has been training on a separate itenary than the rest of the side due to a niggling injury, mirrored Ikeda's tactical intent with her comments when interviewed by a local TV station in Japan.
"Personally, I love to play direct football and I want to be aggressive when going forward. I want to keep the ball and win the ball aggressively."
Also ReadArticle Continues below
Ikeda has wasted no time in implementing changes in both squad selection and on a tactical level. In recent years doubt has been cast on Japan's ability to keep up with other leading nations in women's football. These two matches, Holland in particular, will serve as indicators as to how far behind they are and the size of the job Ikeda has at hand.