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Where EAST meets the Northwest

WORLD CUP COMPETITOR. Japan midfielder Hina Sugita (#15), who plays for the Portland Thorns soccer club, attempts to shoot on goal during a SheBelieves Cup match between Japan and Brazil in Orlando, Florida, in this February 16, 2023 file photo. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

From The Asian Reporter, V33, #7 (July 3, 2023), page 12.

Almost half of Japan’s Women’s World Cup squad from abroad but Iwabuchi misses out

By Stephen Wade

The Associated Press

TOKYO — Almost half of the players Japan summoned for its 23-player Women’s World Cup are displaying their skills in leagues abroad.

Players were selected from leagues outside Japan mainly in England, Sweden, Italy, and the United States in hope of rebounding after being knocked out in the Round of 16 in 2019. The Japanese were runners-up in 2015 and won the title in 2011.

"We will fight for the top spot with great ambition," Japan coach Futoshi Ikeda said in Japanese. "But the level of (women’s) football in the world is improving very rapidly."

Yui Hasegawa of Manchester City probably heads the list from overseas. Another accomplished midfielder is Fuka Nagano of Liverpool.

The youngest player is 19-year-old Maika Hamano, who plays on loan from Chelsea with Swedish club Hammarby.

Players based in the United States include Hina Sugita of the Portland Thorns and Jun Endo who plays for Angel City.

The major absence is Mana Iwabuchi, who played in three straight World Cups. She has been at Tottenham on loan from north London rival Arsenal.

Ikeda did not get into specifics about Iwabuchi’s absence but said he appreciated her "passion" for the team.

"I have chosen (players) not for any one reason, but for their performance in the national team, their condition, their situation in the team, and their performance in various competitions," Ikeda said.

Japan plays its three Group C games in New Zealand, opening with Zambia in Hamilton on July 22. It faces Costa Rica on July 26 in Dunedin and closes group play against Spain on July 31 in Wellington.

The Women’s World Cup is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The Japan roster by position with club affiliation is:

Goalkeepers: Ayaka Yamashita (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata), Momoko Tanaka (Tokyo Verdy Beleza)

Defenders: Saki Kumagai (Roma), Risa Shimizu (West Ham), Rion Ishikawa (Urawa Reds), Moeka Minami (Roma), Shiori Miyake (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Kiko Seike (Urawa Reds), Miyabi Moriya (INAC Kobe Leonessa)

Midfielders: Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City), Jun Endo (Angel City), Fuka Nagano (Liverpool), Hinata Miyazawa (MyNavi Sendai), Hikaru Naomoto (Urawa Reds), Hina Sugita (Portland Thorns), Honoka Hayashi (West Ham), Aoba Fujino (Tokyo Verdy Beleza), Hana Takahashi (Urawa Reds)

Forwards: Maika Hamano (Hammarby), Riko Ueki (Tokyo Verdy Beleza), Mina Tanaka (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Remina Chiba (JEF United)

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