Women's World Cup 2019: Japan Squad, Preview, Predictions
The Nadeshiko, as they are popularly known, the Japan Women's National Football Team would like to make it to their third consecutive FIFA Women's World Cup Final and win their second title, when they square-off against the world's Best in France, next month. The Japanese have reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming mega-event in France after their recent rise in World Football.
The Asako Takakura-helmed side has been phenomenal in the run-up to the tournament.
Japan secured their qualification to France 2019 with their AFC Women's Asian Cup 2018 triumph where the East Asian side got the better of Australia in the final with a 1-0 scoreline.
Since then, the Japanese Women Side has never looked back. They went on to win Gold in the Asian Games Women Football Event in Indonesia a few months later, courtesy a 1-0 win over China in the final.
However, Japan failed to keep the momentum alive in the recently concluded SheBelieves Cup hosted in the United States. Japan finished third in the four-team event. They began the tournament with a hard-fought 2-2 win over the hosts, United States and managed to register a win over Brazil, 3-1 in the next game.
However, the Nadeshiko found the English side too tough to handle and succumbed to a disappointing 3-0 loss and thus bowing out of the tournament.
Rumi Utsugi: The 30-year-old highly experienced defensive midfielder will be key to Japan's chances at the World Cup. Utsugi has been playing out of Japan since 2010 with the likes of French side Montpellier and US-based Reign FC. Such extensive experience in Europe and the States will surely provide the much-needed stability at the back of the midfield to Takakura's side.
Mizuho Sakaguchi: Sakaguchi made her professional debut with Nadeshiko League Division 1 side Speranza FC Takatsuki in 2003. Since then, she has earned a whopping 224 caps at the club level and went on to represent Japan on the international platform for a record 124 times, making her the most experienced campaigner in the current Japanese World Cup side.
Sakaguchi has an exemplary intent to find the forwards out of nowhere with her incisive passing and will be key against physically superior sides like England and Scotland.
Mana Iwabuchi: The forward has been on the score-sheet everywhere she has gone in her club career so far. She has found the net 47 times in 135 club appearances which is an iota of her brilliant conversion rate. Iwabuchi has played extensively in Germany with the likes of TSG Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich. Her time in Europe can prove to be the key factor against technically superior sides such as England and the USA.
Sakiko Ikeda, Rumi Utsugi, Aya Sameshima, Saki Kumagai, Nana Ichise, Hina Sugita, Emi Nakajima, Mana Iwabuchi, Yuika Sugasawa, Mizuho Sakaguchi, Rikako Kobayashi, Moeka Minami, Riko Ueki, Yui Hasegawa, Yuka Momiki, Asato Miyagawa, Narumi Miura, Ayaka Yamashita, Jun Endo, Kumi Yokoyama, Chika Hirao, Risa Shimizu, Shiori Miyake
10 June - Argentina vs Japan
14 June - Japan vs Scotland
20 June - Japan vs England
The Japanese are a very strong side on paper and are expected to do justice to their quality. The Nadeshiko may just go all the way and clinch their second FIFA Women's World Cup Title.