Written by Dylan Newman

2011 Japanese National Team from Nippon.com

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The Japanese Women’s National Team will attempt to repeat as Women’s World Cup Champions this summer. The last team to do this was the German Women, who won the Women’s World Cup in 2003 and 2007. Japan are currently ranked fourth in the world by FIFA and have been on an upward trend the past decade. Below is the recent history of the Japanese team, along with their player to watch, Yuki Ogimi.

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Trend of Japanese FIFA World Rankings from FIFA

2011 World Cup 

The last time the Japanese Women’s National Team kicked a ball at the World Cup, Sakai Kumagai blasted a shot over Hope Solo’s head, which lead to Japan beating the United States 3-1 on penalty kicks, and thereby winning their first World Cup. This was a major upset, as the United States Women’s National Team had 1:1 odds to win the match in regulation (compared to the 13/5 odds that the Japanese team had) (Pregame).


Highlights of the 2011 World Cup Final and Penalty Shootout from FIFATV

Surprisingly, Japan did not always appear very dominant in the 2011 edition of the World Cup. In the group state, they were drawn with England, New Zealand, and Mexico, which had the makings of a very hard group. In the opening match, Japan narrowly defeated New Zealand 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Aya Miyama. In their next match, Homare Sawa lead the Japanese team to a 4-0 victory over Mexico with a hat-rick. That result put the Japanese in first place with six points and comfortably in the next round. England, their next opponent, sat behind them with four, and needed a point to advance to the next round. In that match, England dominated the Japanese and won 2-0, which meant that Japan finished second in the group with just six points.

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Group B Standings from the 2011 World Cup from Wikipedia

As Japan finished second in the group stage, they had a tough road ahead of them in the knockout rounds. In their first match, they went up against undefeated hosts Germany in Wolfsburg. The game finished 0-0 after regular time, and was still tied 0-0 after the first 15 minute period of extra time. Then, with some amazing team build up play and a strike at almost an impossible angle, Karina Maruyama stunned the German crowd by putting home the game winning goal for Japan.

Video of Maruyama’s goal from FIFATV


In the semi-finals, Japan found themselves down to Sweden 1-0 after the 10th minute Nahomi Kawasumi helped Japan rally a comeback, and the Japanese ended up winning 3-1. Then, as we know, Japan faced off against the US in one of the best soccer matches of recent times. Japan again found themselves down 1-0, however, Aya Miyama ended up tying up the game in the 81st minute, which sent it to extra time. There, Japan found themselves down again, but  in the 117th minute, with just 3 minutes to spare, Homare Sawa put home an equalizer, which sent the match to penalty kicks. As mentioned, Japan won on penalty kicks 3-1, and won their first Women’s World Cup (FIFA Match Reports and Scores from 2011 World Cup).


What has Happened Since? 

2012 Summer Olympics

Japan continued their high level of play by qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics. Japan defeated Canada 2-1 in their opening match, and then tied 0-0 with the other two members of their group, Sweden and South Africa. This lead to Japan advancing from their group in second place, due to goal differential.

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Standings from the 2012 Olympic Group F from Wikipedia

In the knockout stages of the Olympics, Japan defeated Brazil 2-0 after goals from Yuki Ogimi and Shinobu Ohno. In the semi-finals, Japan defeated France 2-1, which matched them up with the United States in the final for a rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final. This time, however, Yuki Ogimi’s goal was not enough, as the United States answered with two goals of their own from Carli Lloyd, and the Japanese had to settle for the silver medal.

2014 Asian Cup

Previously to this tournament, Japan had never won an Asian Cup. To start of their campaign, Japan came back against a strong Australia team for a 2-2 draw. Japan then easily defeated Vietnam and Jordan, 4-0 and 7-0, respectively, which allowed the Japanese to top their group on goal differential. By finishing in the top two, Japan automatically qualified for the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

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Standings of the 2014 Asian Championships from Wikipedia

In the semi-finals, Japan faced off against The People’s Republic of China and won 2-1 in extra time after a goal in the 122nd minute from Azusa Iwashimizu. After Australia defeated South Korea, this lead to an Australia versus Japan rematch that many wanted to see for the finals. In the finals, another Azusa Iwashimizu goal, this time in the twenty-eighth minute, lead Japan to the 1-0 victory, which was Japan’s first Asian Cup (Soccer24).

2015 FIFA World Cup

As of the beginning of April, Ladbrokes gives Japan eight-to-one odds to win the World Cup this year, placing them behind the US, Germany, and Brazil (Ladbrokes). The leading goal scorer from the 2011 World Cup, Japan’s Homare Sawa, retired from international competition after the 2012 Olympics, meaning Japan will have to look elsewhere for their goals in this year’s competition.

The Japanese were drawn into Group C with Switzerland, Cameroonand Ecuador. As the Swiss, Cameroon, and Ecuador are all in their first World Cup, the Japanese are expected to go through to the next round as the group winners. I expect this to be the case and for the Japanese to make a deep run in the knockout stages.

Player to Watch: Yuki Ogimi

Image of Yuki Ogimi from PNN



Ogimi goal versus Arsenal Ladies in 2012

Yuki Ogimi made her Japanese National Team debut in 2004, and since then has become a star of the Japanese team. Ogimi has the potential to be the breakout player of the 2015 World Cup. It is hard to say that someone who has already scored 50 goals for the Japanese National Team will be a breakout performer, but she really has the potential to become a household name after this World Cup. Previously known as Yuki Nagasoto prior to the 2012 Olympics, where she scored three goals in six matches, Ogimi scored Japan’s first goal of the 2011 Women’s World Cup with an amazing strike. In 2013, Ogimi played for Chelsea, where she made 18 appearances and scored five goals. Since then, she has moved to Wolfsburg of Germany where the season is just currently getting underway, but Ogimi already has one goal in the two matches that she has played so far.

Yuki’s goal versus New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup 

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Works Cited

“2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Group B.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.

“2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup: Stadings” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.

“Arsenal Ladies vs Potsdam (2-1) – Yuki Ogimi Goal.” Dailymotion. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.

FIFA. 2011 Women’s World Cup Scores. http://www.fifa.com/tournaments/archive/womensworldcup/germany2011/matches/index.html

FIFA. FIFA World Rankings: Japan. http://www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/associations/association=jpn/women/index.html

FIFATV. Emotional Japan Stun USA in World Cup Final. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNMTCT1lyhs. 02 Apr. 2015.

FIFATV. Germany-Japan 2011 World Cup. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ePK6l664UM. 03 Apr. 2015.

Ladbrokes. 2015 Women’s World Cup Odds. http://sports.ladbrokes.com/en-gb/Football/Women%27s-World-Cup-2015Football/Women%27s-World-Cup-2015-t210007470. 03. Apr. 2015.

“Football at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Women’s Tournament – Group F.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.

PNN. Yuki Ogimi Image. http://static.pnn.de/fm/61/thumbnails/yuki%20ogimi.jpg.5268721.JPG

Soccer24. Asian Cup Women. http://www.soccer24.com/asia/asian-cup-women/. 03 Apr. 2015.

“USA vs. Japan: 2011 Women’s World Cup Odds, Picks and Start Time.” USA vs. Japan: 2011 Women’s World Cup Odds, Picks and Start Time. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2015.

Yuki Ogimi. http://static.pnn.de/fm/61/thumbnails/yuki%20ogimi.JPG.5268721.JPG. 03. Apr. 2015.


How to cite this article:  “Japan” Written by Dylan Newman (2015), World Cup 2015, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University. http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/players-to-watch-at-the-2015-womens-world-cup/japan/

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