Nadeshiko Japan, also known as the Japan women’s national football team, are a national team, which similarly to the men’s team is run by Japan Football Association. The Japan women’s national team has appeared in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 7 times starting from 1991 and in the 2011 Germany World Cup they won their first FIFA world class tournament, something not done before in the history of Japanese soccer. Moreover, they have also appeared in the Olympics 4 times, winning the silver medal in 2012, as well as winning the championship once in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and the Asian Games.
The Japan women’s team first played as a national team in an international tournament in 1978. As an Olympic game women’s soccer became an official event in 1996 with the Atlanta Olympics. Nadeshiko Japan earned the right to appear in this first tournament, but were completely defeated by veteran countries like Germany, Brazil, Norway in the group stages.
After that in the Sydney Olympics, they missed the opportunity to appear in the main event and thus in the blink of an eye national interest towards Japan’s women’s soccer dropped, which also meant less viewers for the L. League’s games.
The situation started to improve when they played against Mexico in their intercontinental play-off for the right to appear in the 2003 Women’s World Cup in America. The first leg was an away match, that was held in Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, ended in a draw with 2-2. The second leg was a home match, held in the National Stadium, which they won 2-0, earning them the right to enter the World Cup.
At that point interest grew towards women’s soccer and even more so after Norio Sasaki was hired as the manager in 2008. On the same year they won their first East Asian Football Championship and also won the next event, held in 2010.
The following year they qualified for the World Cup in Germany, won the 16th Asian championship for the first time and started to have good results in other events.
When the World Cup started, the team gathered around their veteran player Homare Sawa and broke through the group stages with 2 wins 1 loss. In the quarter-finals they played against the host country Germany, who was also a favorite to win the event, but Japan broke through their defense during overtime.
In the semi-finals, with the 2 goals shot by Nahomi Kawasumi against Sweden, they won 3-1 and for the first time in history made it to the finals. In the final against USA a tough, sweat dripping, battle unfolded. During overtime Sawa’s miraculous goal brought the game to 2-2 and at the end of the shoot-out they emerged victorious. Their passion brought them their first World Cup championship. Sawa was picked up the MVP in the tournament and shined with the top scorer. In an instant Nadeshiko Japan became the center of attention around the globe. As a result, after the tournament for the first time in history the People’s Honor Award was given to the Nadeshiko Japan.
In the 2012 London Olympics the next year the Nadeshiko sensation continued. For the first time in history they made it to the final, but against the revenge hungry USA team they lost 1-2. Regrettably Nadeshiko weren’t able to stop their plans and finished with the silver medal.
Even after that, they won their first AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2014 and the 2015 Women’s World Cup runner-up that was held in Canada. Nadeshiko managed to produce stable results and were successful in enlivening the scene around Japan’s women’s soccer.
However, with Sawa retired, the new generation is not coming on as fast and because of other countries studying Japan’s passing style, the team lost their chance to appear in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and gradually fell into a slump. Currently under the new manager Asako Takakura a new team is being put together.