It will be twelve years this year since Japan last won the World Cup in 2011. Since that tournament, the Japanese National team has been trying to find its way back to glory. The last major tournament they won was the AFC Asian Cup in 2018. A tournament they failed to make the final in last year. Now a new generation of Japanese players will travel to the United States this month to play in the SheBelieves Cup. There they will face off against Brazil, Canada, and the United States in their first major test before the World Cup this summer. Here is the Japan SheBelieves Cup Preview for 2023.
Pre SheBelieves Cup Form for Japan
Japan’s 2022 saw most of their matches ending in victory. However, when up against the more historically stiff competition, they succumbed to the pressure. In the AFC Asian Cup, Japan lost on penalties in the semifinal against China. In their last two friendlies of the year, Japan lost to England 4-0 and Spain 1-0.
Japan’s SheBelieves History
Japan participated in two consecutive SheBelieves Cups in 2019 and 2020. 2019 saw them finishing in third place thanks to a win over Brazil and a draw against that year’s eventual World Cup champion United States. The latter result was made possible by a stoppage-time goal from Yuka Momiki. The next year was not as memorable a run for Japan. 2020 saw them lose all three matches and only manage two goals in the tournament.
17 July, 2011. 🇯🇵🏆
Saki Kumagai's determination and a historic first title for Japan. What a moment!@jfa_nadeshiko | #FIFAWWC pic.twitter.com/PgBLs5Pe22
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) July 17, 2022
Players to Watch for Japan in the SheBelieves Cup
Japan will most likely be led in the SheBelieves Cup by their captain in defense, Saki Kumagai. The 32-year-old central defender is the most experienced of the current crop of Japanese talent. She has registered 130 caps for the national team and was a part of the squad that won the 2011 Word Cup and finished second in 2015. She also has a silver medal from the 2012 Summer Olympics.
26-year-old, Yui Hasegawa, is an example of Japan’s up-and-coming talent. The 26-year-old has 11 goals from 60 caps internationally and plays for Manchester City in England. Hasegawa is a versatile midfielder who can fill many roles for Japan.
— Tottenham Hotspur Women (@SpursWomen) February 9, 2023
Japan will most likely rely on a familiar face for scoring in the tournament. Mana Iwabuchi has been nicknamed “Manadona” with many fans comparing her play to Argentine legend Diego Maradona. Her 37 goals are the most by an active Japanese player. The 29-year-old was also a part of the 2011 World Cup winning team as well as the silver medal Olympic squad in 2012.
Conclusion and Predictions for Japan in the SheBelieves Cup
Of the four teams competing in this year’s tournament, Japan ranks the lowest according to FIFA at 11. That combined with the fact that they have yet to beat a world-class team in the last calendar year makes it seem that Japan might be lucky to leave the tournament with a win. I would not be shocked to see a fourth place in Japan SheBelieves Cup.