USWNT Rival Watch: Japan’s Uncapped Players

The USWNT’s final opponent in group play at the Algarve Cup is Japan. Their Cup roster includes two players without any senior international caps, U-20 standout Mai Kyokawa (who just turned 18) and Saori Ariyoshi.

Mai Kyokawa (born 28-12-1993). Position: Forward. Club: INAC Kobe (just signed in January*, English article). Her previous team was powerhouse Tokiwagi Gakuen High School.

Kyokawa is a member of Japan’s U-20 team which won the Asian Football Confederation’s Women’s U-19 Championship last year. She is age-eligible for the 2012 Women’s Under-20 World Cup. (Players must be born “on or after 1 January 1992.” Also, the cut-off for 2014 U-20 WWC would be 1-Jan-1994, so she just misses out on eligibility for that event.)

In the AFC Women’s U-19 Championship, Kyokawa scored in four out of Japan’s five matches. (The tournament was a  round-robin format with six teams.) Kyokawa was named the tournament MVP and tied for most goals, 5 (AFC website, English). (For more on the tournament, AFC’s website has final group standings, plus a list of matches that link to box scores. All in English.)

Also, Kyokawa was 2011 “AFC Youth Player of the Year” runner-up. That honor went to Australia’s Caitlin Foord. (AFC website, English).

*The news article is dated 21-February, but her signing was officially announced back on 22-January (25 second YouTube video from that event).

Saori Ariyoshi (born 1-Nov-1987). Position: Defender. Club: NTV Beleeza. Ariyoshi was one of two reserve players who was in Japan’s final training camp before the 2011 Women’s World Cup (JFA article, English). She got her first call-up to a senior camp in February 2009 when she was still a student at Nippon Sports Science University (JFA article, English). Though, as of the January camp, she was still listed as a member of the Nadeshiko Challenge squad, which is essentially a “B” team (JFA article, English).

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Other players with limited caps include midfielder/forward Nanase Kiryu (3), who has been in the mix for at least the last couple of years; forward Yuika Sugasawa (born 5-Oct-1990, 6 caps, 0 goals), and defender Asuna Tanaka (born 23-Apr-1988, 6 caps, 2 goals), who was on Japan’s 2011 WWC squad. Tanaka only saw one minute of playing time (as a sub in the 92’ minute versus New Zealand).

The only other player who was not on the 2011 World Cup roster is midfielder Kanako Ito (born 20-Jul-1983, 10 caps, 3 goals).