Opponent Watch: Japan Calls In 25 Players Ahead of the SheBelieves Cup

Update (15-Feb-2020):  Midfielder Hasegawa Yui (age 23, 42 caps) and Hayashi Honoka (age 21, 1 cap) were withdrawn before the camp started due to unspecified injuries. No replacement players will be called in. (jfa.jp)

Update (25-Feb-2020):  Hasegawa’s injury was quite minor, as she has been named to Japan’s SheBelieves Cup squad. All but three players, defender Seike Kiko, midfielder Hayashi Honoka, and forward Ueki Riko, from this original camp roster have been named to Japan’s SheBelieves Cup squad.  As expected, Kumagai Saki, who plays for Olympique Lyonnais in France has also been named to Japan’s roster for the tournament. (jfa.jp)

Update (01-Mar-2020):  Forward Kobayashi Rikako has been withdrawn due to injury.  Ueki Riko has been recalled as Kobayashi’s replacement. (jfa.jp)

(This article follows Japanese name customs:  Family names are listed first, followed by the given name.)

Ahead of next month’s SheBelieves Cup, Japan has called in 25 domestic-based players for a six-day training camp that runs from Friday, February 14th to Wednesday, February 19th.  As this camp is outside of a FIFA window, team captain Kumagai Saki, who plays for Olympique Lyonnais in France, has not been included, but is expected to be on the roster for the SheBelieves Cup.

Of the 25 players called in, 16 were in France last summer as part of the Nadeshiko squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.  Just 11 players were on Japan’s roster for last year’s SheBelieves Cup, while 14 players were part of the squad for the 2018 Tournament of Nations, which was also hosted by the United States Women’s National Team.

Notably, this camp roster features no players over the age of 30, though there are two players who were born in 1990:  Midfielder Nakajima Emi and forward Sugasawa Yuika, who will both turn 30 after the Summer Olympics.

The youngest player on the camp roster is the 2000-born Endo Jun, a wide midfielder who started two matches during last year’s WWC.

Every player on the camp roster has at least one national team appearance, with all but three having started a match for Japan.  The median number of caps is only 15, while just six players have more than 5 career international goals.

This relative youth and inexperience is part of a larger rebuilding process initiated by head coach Takakura Asako following Japan’s failure to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics under previous head coach Sasaki Norio.  That rebuilding process has been a struggle at times, most notably the last WWC, where Japan only won one group match (FIFA.com) while conceding a historic nil-nil draw to Argentina (FIFA.com), before bowing out during the Round of 16 to debutante finalist Netherlands via a late Lieke Martens penalty kick (FIFA.com).

As Tokyo is hosting this year’s Summer Olympics, Japan auto-qualified for the women’s soccer tournament as hosts.

Notable Absences

Not included on this roster are Japan’s three oldest players at last year’s WWC:  Former Boston Breaker Sameshima Aya (age 32), Utsugi Rumi (age 31), last with Reign FC (contract expired, new contract offered – SoundersAtHeart), and midfielder Sakaguchi Mizuho.  Sameshima was called in for Japan’s October friendly against Canada, but was withdrawn due to an injury. (jfa.jp)  Sakaguchi Mizuho, who missed most of 2018 due to an ACL injury, suffered another knee injury shortly after last year’s WWC. (nikkansports.com, yahoo.co.jp)

Besides Kumagai, other notable WWC players not on this roster include 26 year-old forward Yokoyama Kumi (43 caps, 17 goals), who signed with the Washington Spirit in December (washingtonspirit.com), and center back Ichise Nana (19 caps), who started Japan’s last three matches in France.  Neither player has featured for Japan since the WWC.

The one remaining WWC player not called in is 20 year-old forward Takarada Saori, who was a late replacement for the then-injured Ueki Riko (jfa.jp), who is on this camp’s roster.


JAPAN’S ROSTER FOR FEBRUARY 2020 CAMP

Goalkeepers (3):
HIRAO Chika (Albirex Niigata Ladies)
IKEDA Sakiko (Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies)
YAMASHITA Ayaka (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)

Defenders (7):
DOKO Mayo (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
MATSUBARA Arisa (Nojima Stella Kanagawa Sagamihara)
MINAMI Moeka (Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies)
MIYAGAWA Asato (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
MIYAKE Shiori (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
SEIKE Kiko (Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies)*
SHIMIZU Risa (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)

Defender Kumagai Saki (Olympique Lyonnais) did not participate in this camp, but (as expected) was named to Japan’s SheBelieves Cup roster.

Midfielders (8):
ENDO Jun (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
HASEGAWA Yui (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
HAYASHI Honoka (Cerezo Osaka Sakai Ladies)*
MIURA Narumi (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
MOMIKI Yuka (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
NAKAJIMA Emi (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
NAOMOTO Hikaru (Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies)
SUGITA Hina (INAC Kobe Leonessa)

Forwards (7):
IKEJIRI Mayu (Mynavi Vegalta Sendai Ladies)
IWABUCHI Mana (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
KOBAYASHI Rikako (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
SUGASAWA Yuika (Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies)
TANAKA Mina (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
UEKI Riko (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)*
UENO Mami (Ehime FC Ladies)

*not named to Japan’s SheBelieves Cup roster.


On their website, the JFA provides a photo roster with basic summary details for players, as well as a page for each player with up-to-date numbers for caps (appearances) and goals.  The following table is a compilation of basic player information from the JFA website, along with columns indicating whether the player was on the roster for the 2019 WWC (“WWC” column), last year’s SheBelieves Cup (“SBC”), and the 2018 Tournament of Nations (“ToN”).  Age is as of the first match day for this year’s SheBelieves Cup (March 5th).  Heights are in inches.  The table is sorted by position, then in alphabetical order.

Table 1:  Japan’s Roster for February 2020 Camp – Detailed

                                                  |            | '19  '19  '18
Player             P.     D.O.B.      Age    Ht.  | Caps   Gol | WWC  SBC  ToN
HIRAO Chika        GK   12/31/1996   23.18   68.1 |    2    -4 |  Y         Y
IKEDA Sakiko       GK   09/08/1992   27.49   66.1 |   15   -18 |  Y         Y
YAMASHITA Ayaka    GK   09/29/1995   24.43   66.9 |   35   -38 |  Y         Y
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
DOKO Mayo          DF   05/03/1996   23.84   64.6 |    2     0 |            Y
MATSUBARA Arisa    DF   05/01/1995   24.85   66.1 |    4     1 |       Y
MINAMI Moeka       DF   12/07/1998   21.24   67.3 |   10     0 |  Y    Y
MIYAGAWA Asato     DF   02/24/1998   22.03   63.0 |    9     0 |  Y    Y
MIYAKE Shiori      DF   10/13/1995   24.39   65.0 |   21     0 |  Y         Y
SEIKE Kiko         DF   08/08/1996   23.57   65.4 |    2     1 |
SHIMIZU Risa       DF   06/15/1996   23.72   63.0 |   31     0 |  Y    Y    Y
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ENDO Jun           MF   05/24/2000   19.78   65.7 |   12     0 |  Y    Y
HASEGAWA Yui       MF   01/29/1997   23.10   61.4 |   42     8 |  Y    Y    Y
HAYASHI Honoka     MF   05/19/1998   21.80   61.8 |    1     0 |
MIURA Narumi       MF   07/03/1997   22.67   61.4 |   17     0 |  Y         Y
MOMIKI Yuka        MF   04/09/1996   23.90   60.2 |   30    10 |  Y    Y    Y
NAKAJIMA Emi       MF   09/27/1990   29.44   62.2 |   78    14 |  Y    Y    Y
NAOMOTO Hikaru     MF   03/03/1994   26.01   62.2 |   20     0 |
SUGITA Hina        MF   01/31/1997   23.09   63.8 |   15     0 |  Y    Y    Y
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
IKEJIRI Mayu       FW   12/19/1996   23.21   65.0 |    6     2 |       Y
IWABUCHI Mana      FW   03/18/1993   26.97   61.4 |   69    27 |  Y         Y
KOBAYASHI Rikako   FW   07/21/1997   22.62   63.0 |   12     4 |  Y    Y
SUGASAWA Yuika     FW   10/05/1990   29.42   66.1 |   69    20 |  Y         Y
TANAKA Mina        FW   04/28/1994   25.85   64.6 |   39    16 |            Y
UEKI Riko          FW   07/30/1999   20.60   63.8 |    3     0 |  #
UENO Mami          FW   09/27/1996   23.44   65.4 |    6     0 |

# – Ueki Riko was a late scratch from Japan’s 2019 WWC roster due to injury (jfa.jp).  Her player profile on JFA.jp lists the WWC as one of the FIFA tournaments that she has participated in.

For reference, defender Kumagai Saki is 5’8″ (173cm) and 29.38 years-old (b. 17-Oct-1990).  She has 110 caps and 1 goal. (jfa.jp)

Sources:  Position, Date of Birth (mm/dd/yyyy format), Height (converted from metric), Caps, and Goals details are taken directly from the JFA’s website.  Past tournament roster information is from FIFA.com (for WWC), and JFA.jp match rosters (for 2019 SBC and 2018 ToN).  Age is calculated.


NOTABLES

3 With 20:  Three Nadeshiko League clubs provide 20 of the 25 players for this camp:  Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza leads the way with 10 players, while INAC Kobe Leonessa and Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies, each have 5 listed players, including Naomoto Hikaru for Urawa, who recently left SC Freiburg (German news article on SC Freiburg’s woes).

Just 1 Olympian:  With Japan failing to qualify for the last Summer Olympics, Iwabuchi Mana is the only player on this camp roster who has been on an Olympic roster.  (Each active player’s stats page on JFA.jp includes a handy list of official FIFA competition rosters that the player has made.)

For the SheBelieves Cup, Japan will have two Olympians: Iwabuchi and Kumagai.


EXTRA NOTABLE

Long-time Nadeshiko striker Ono Shinobu recently announced her retirement from soccer, after 20 years of playing professionally.  (JapanTimes.co.jp)  A press conference is scheduled for Wednesday, February 12th.  Ono retired from international soccer in 2016.