Japan women's national football team

The Japan women's national football team, or Nadeshiko Japan (なでしこジャパン), represents Japan in women's association football and is run by the Japan Football Association (JFA). It is the most successful women's national team from the Asian Football Confederation. Its highest ranking in the FIFA Women's World Rankings is 3rd, achieved in December 2011.[3]

Nickname(s)なでしこジャパン (Nadeshiko Japan)
AssociationJapan Football Association
ConfederationAFC (Asia)
Sub-confederationEAFF (East Asia)
Head coachAsako Takakura
CaptainSaki Kumagai
Most capsHomare Sawa (205)
Top scorerHomare Sawa (83)
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 10 (13 December 2019)[1]
Highest3 (December 2011)
Lowest14 (July 2003)
First international
 Chinese Taipei 1–0 Japan 
(Hong Kong; 7 June 1981)
Biggest win
 Japan 21–0 Guam 
(Guangzhou, China; 5 December 1997)
Biggest defeat
 Italy 9–0 Japan 
(Tokyo, Japan; 9 September 1981)[2]
 United States 9–0 Japan 
(Charlotte, United States; 29 April 1999)[2]
World Cup
Appearances8 (first in 1991)
Best resultChampions (2011)
Olympic Games
Appearances4 (first in 1996)
Best resultRunners-up (2012)
Asian Cup
Appearances16 (first in 1977)
Best resultChampions (2014, 2018)

Nadeshiko Japan defeated the United States in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final, thus claiming their first FIFA Women's World Cup title, becoming the first Asian team to do so and only the fourth women's world champions.[4] It won silver medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, making it the only Asian team to have three combined medals from international championships.[5] It also won gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cups, the 2010 and 2018 Asian Games, and the 2008 and 2010 EAFF Women's Football Championships.


70s and 80s

During the 1970s, the number of women football players and teams increased in Japan, and teams made up regional leagues in various parts of Japan. In 1977, the Japan team participated its first international tournament, 1977 AFC Women's Championship. But, this Japan team was not a national team, Japan Football Association dispatched club team, FC Jinnan as a Japan team. In 1980, "All-Japan Women's Football Championship" was held. In 1981, Japan Football Association formed first national team for 1981 AFC Women's Championship[6] and Seiki Ichihara managed as first Japan national team manager.[2] The first match against Chinese Taipei on 7 June at this tournament is the first match for Japan national team history.[2] In 1984, national team was formed for the first time in three years for a China expedition, and Takao Orii managed national team.[2]

In January 1986, Ryohei Suzuki became first full-time manager for national team. In December, Japan won the 2nd place at 1986 AFC Women's Championship. In 1989, the "Japan Women's Football League" (abbreviated to "L. League") was established, and the women's national team qualified for the "1991 FIFA Women's World Cup" in China.

Verge of decline

Japan women's national football team attended various championship tournaments such as the 1996 Summer Olympics and the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup which had made the national team and the L.League very popular. However, in 1999, Japan failed to qualify for the 2000 Summer Olympics, and this helped to cause with economic stagnation (Lost Decade) the withdrawal of a series of teams from the L. League. Japanese women's football was on the verge of decline.


In August 2002, the Japan Football Association appointed Eiji Ueda, who had been coach for the Macau national football team, as the new head coach. Officials expected a revitalization of women's football and planned a team reorganization, aiming for the 2004 Summer Olympics. The team at first went through a losing streak, but Ueda gradually improved the team, and it eventually gained wide support in Japan. In particular, a game against Korea DPR, which decided who would participate in the 2004 Olympics, not only made fans rush to the National Stadium but also was widely watched on TV.

Following the increase in public interest in women's football in Japan, the JFA organized a public contest to select a nickname for the team. "Nadeshiko Japan" was chosen from among about 2,700 entries and was announced on 7 July 2004. "Nadeshiko", a kind of dianthus, comes from the phrase "Yamato Nadeshiko" (大和撫子, "ideal Japanese woman").

2003 and 2007 World Cup

Japan was dropped with Germany, Canada and Argentina during 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. Beginning by a 6–0 thrash to newcomer Argentina, but later Japan fell on 0–3 loss to later champion Germany, and 1–3 to Canada, who later won 4th place.

Again, in 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup held in China, they again faced Germany, Argentina and England. They started with a 2–2 draw over England, before beating Argentina 1–0 after 90'. But a 0–2 loss over reigning champion Germany again eliminated Japan from the group stage. Japan's disappointing campaign through two decisive Women's World Cup would not have expected to lead to a 2011 triumph.

Golden Period

2011 World Cup

Japan qualified for the finals by finishing third in the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup. After finishing second in their group behind England, Japan beat two-time defending champion and host nation Germany 1–0 in the quarterfinals, before easily defeating Sweden 3–1 to reach the final.

After the final game finished 2–2 after extra time, Japan beat the United States 3–1 in a penalty shootout, becoming the first Asian team to win the FIFA Women's World Cup, and the first Asian team to win a senior FIFA title.[9][10] It came right after men's team won the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, marked their most successful year in Japanese football.

2012 Summer Olympics

Japan qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics by finishing first in the Asian qualifier in September 2011, only 6 weeks after winning the Women's World Cup. At the Olympics, after finishing second in their group behind Sweden, Nadeshiko Japan defeated Brazil 2–0 in the quarterfinals, followed by a 2–1 victory over France, whom Nadeshiko had lost to in a friendly match right before the Olympics, to reach the final.

In a rematch of the World Cup final, Japan was defeated in the Olympic final by a score of 1–2 against the United States, allowing two goals to Carli Lloyd in the 8th and 54th minutes. Yūki Ōgimi scored the lone goal for Japan.[11]

2014 Asian Cup

Despite having won a FIFA Women's World Cup in 2011, Japan entered the 2014 Asian Cup having never previously won the tournament. They were drawn with Asia's Queen Australia, host Vietnam and newcomer Jordan. Their first match in the group stage of the tournament resulted in a 2–2 draw against the defending champion Australia.[12] Also in the group stage, Japan upset host Vietnam by a 4–0 win before defeating Jordan with a 7–0 win to finish first with a higher goal difference.

In the semi-final, Japan beat eight-time champions China 2–1 after 120'. In the final, they met Australia once again and successfully earned a 1–0 win with Azusa Iwashimizu's goal. This marked the first time for Japan to become "Queen of Asia". They became the first Asian team to subsequently win both the FIFA Women's World Cup and AFC Women's Asian Cup. Because of their top placement in the tournament, Japan, Australia, China, South Korea and newcomer Thailand secured their spot at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup to be played in Canada the following year.[13]

2015 World Cup

Japan, then fourth in the world, was drawn into Group C for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, with tournament debutants Ecuador, Switzerland, and Cameroon. Japan won all three games, securing passage into the Round of 16, where they drew yet another tournament debutant in the Netherlands. Saori Ariyoshi and Mizuho Sakaguchi scored goals for Japan, and they ultimately survived a couple of nervy moments to get into the quarterfinals. Against Australia, Japan once again used their technical possession game to frustrate The Matildas and negate their speed. Mana Iwabuchi notched the only goal of the game three minutes from time to send Japan to the semifinals.

Against England in the semifinals, Nadeshiko Japan was able to survive against the tenacious Lionesses, as the two teams traded goals from the penalty spot (Aya Miyama for Japan, Fara Williams for England). Deadlocked from the 40th minute on, Japan got a truly fortunate break as English centre back Laura Bassett, in trying to clear out a Japan cross, ended up scoring an own-goal at the death. This set up a rematch with the United States from the 2011 Women's World Cup.

Unfortunately for Japan, the Americans came out flying and scored four goals in the first 16 minutes of the match, with American midfielder Carli Lloyd scoring a hat trick in the process. Yuki Ogimi brought Japan one back in the 27th minute, and an own goal from Julie Johnston halved the American lead, but Tobin Heath put the final touch on the United States' third Women's World Cup victory.

Competitive record

FIFA Women's World Cup

FIFA Women's World Cup record
Hosts / Year Result GP W D* L GS GA GD
1991Group stage3003012−12
1999Group stage3012110−9
2019Round of 16411235−2
*Draws include knockout matches decided on penalty kicks.
FIFA Women's World Cup history
1991 Group stage17 November BrazilL 0–1New Plaza Stadium, Foshan
19 November SwedenL 0–8
21 November United StatesL 0–3
1995 Group stage5 June GermanyL 0–1Tingvallen, Karlstad
7 June BrazilW 2–1
9 June SwedenL 0–2Arosvallen, Västerås
Quarter-finals13 June United StatesL 0–4Strömvallen, Gävle
1999 Group stage19 June CanadaD 1–1Spartan Stadium, San Jose
23 June RussiaL 0–5Civic Stadium, Portland
26 June NorwayL 0–4Soldier Field, Chicago
2003 Group stage20 September ArgentinaW 6–0Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus
24 September GermanyL 0–3
27 September CanadaL 1–3Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
2007 Group stage11 September EnglandD 2–2Hongkou Stadium, Shanghai
14 September ArgentinaW 1–0
17 September GermanyL 0–2Yellow Dragon Sports Center, Hangzhou
2011 Group stage27 June New ZealandW 2–1Ruhrstadion, Bochum
1 July MexicoW 4–0BayArena, Leverkusen
5 July EnglandL 0–2Impuls Arena, Augsburg
Quarter-finals9 July GermanyW 1–0Volkswagen-Arena, Wolfsburg
Semi-finals13 July SwedenW 3–1Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt
Final17 July United StatesD 2–2 (3–1 pen)
2015 Group stage8 June  SwitzerlandW 1–0BC Place, Vancouver
12 June CameroonW 2–1
16 June EcuadorW 1–0Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg
Round of 1623 June NetherlandsW 2–1BC Place, Vancouver
Quarter-finals27 June AustraliaW 1–0Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
Semi-finals1 July EnglandW 2–1
Final5 July United StatesL 2–5BC Place, Vancouver
2019 Group stage10 June ArgentinaD 0–0Parc des Princes, Paris
14 June ScotlandW 2–1Roazhon Park, Rennes
19 June EnglandL 0–2Allianz Riviera, Nice
Round of 1625 June NetherlandsL 1–2Roazhon Park, Rennes

Summer Olympics

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