The curtain rises on a once-every-four-years celebration.
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will begin on July 20. Japan, ranked 11th in FIFA, will face Zambia, Costa Rica, and Spain, ranked 6th, in the group stage.
Yui Hasegawa (26) Midfielder
Fuuka Nagano (24) Midfielder
Japan’s national team won the long-awaited championship in Germany in 2011, creating a “Nadeshiko whirlwind” around the world. At that time, the team was led by two geniuses, Homare Sawa (44) and Aya Miyama (38), and this year’s team has a golden duo to rival theirs. Sports journalist Ryokai Yoshiko explains.
The current national team’s strength lies in its aggressive defense from the front and short counters, in addition to its traditional passing soccer. At the heart of the team is the midfield duo of Yui Hasegawa (26) and Fuka Nagano (24). Hasegawa, who plays for Manchester City (England’s first division), has been a regular member of the national team since the under-19s, and is expected to play a central role in the attack with her speed and good judgment.
Nagano, a member of Liverpool (English First Division), is a versatile player who can work hard both offensively and defensively. In addition to his excellent athleticism, his high-precision free kicks are also attractive. He has been preparing for the tournament by going to a state-of-the-art hypoxic training gym to improve his stamina. I believe that the three players, including Hikaru Naomoto (29), will make up the midfield.
A more reassuring backup lineup is also in place. Yoshiteru Nishi, who served as the exclusive chef for Moriyasu Japan at the World Cup in Qatar, will accompany the team. In addition, the number of athletic trainers who take care of the players has been increased to three.
In addition to the midfield, the defense, controlled by Saki Kumagai (32), who is familiar with the previous winner, is also strong. However, there are concerns about the lack of scoring in the attack. In order to solve this problem, coach Futoshi Ikeda (52) has made a major decision. He decided not to call up Mana Iwabuchi (30), the reigning ace of the national team, and selected 19-year-old Maika Hamano.
Hamano, who made her debut in the Nadeshiko League first division as a second-year junior high school student, signed a contract with Chelsea (England’s first division) in January of this year while still in her third year of high school.
Hamano’s greatest weapon is her skillful dribbling, which has been likened to Messi’s. She also has the decisiveness to take a chance. He also has the decisiveness to take his chances. He was selected for the national team for the first time last October against Nigeria. I was surprised by his strong sense of responsibility, which is hard to believe for a teenager,” says sportswriter Toshiakira Narita.
We got the last piece. Lastly, I asked about the outlook for the group stage.
In the final match of the qualifying round, Spain will be led by Alexia Putejas (29), a prodigious commander who has won the Ballon d’Or two years in a row. How many points can Japan earn before the second game? Compared to the members of the winning team in 2011, the players’ abilities have definitely improved. If we can get the momentum going, I think we have a good shot at winning the tournament,” said Narita.
The new Nadeshiko will challenge for the top for the second time.
The trump card to solve the lack of scoring ability! The “Japanese Messi” will save the team!
Maika Hamano (19), Forward
NAOMOTO Hikaru (29) Midfielder
Saki Kumagai (32) Defender (Captain)
From the July 28, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Getty Images Afro