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Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 quarter-final: Japan vs Sweden
Date: Friday, 11 August Kick-off: 08:30 BST Location: Eden Park, Auckland
Viewing Options: Live broadcast on BBC One starting at 08:00 BST, BBC iPlayer, and the Sport Newes Center website & app. Tune in to 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds for audio coverage. Follow live text, commentary, and reports on the Sport Newes Center website.
Reflecting on Japan’s surprising victory in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, head coach Futoshi Ikeda said, “I was watching it at my home on TV. The Japanese earthquake had just occurred. The tournament, therefore, became a symbol of courage, joy, and the magnificent power of sports.”
The unexpected triumph in Germany, 12 years ago, was filled with emotion for Japan.
Just three months prior, a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami along Japan’s north-eastern coastline left over 18,000 dead. This disaster led to a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant and displaced many.
The J-Village, which served as Japan’s national football center, became a haven for those affected, situated in Fukushima.
During this tragedy, Japan defender Aya Sameshima was working at the nuclear plant. She and her teammates, including Saki Kumagai, who struck the decisive penalty kick against the USA, had to heal from these events before going to Germany. The team, called “Nadeshiko” – a term denoting a delicate pink carnation – symbolized a nation’s unyielding resolve to bounce back from calamity.
A dozen years later, Kumagai, now 32, leads Japan in the World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
Japan will compete against Sweden, who they defeated in the 2011 semi-finals, in Auckland on Friday (08:30 BST kick-off), for a spot in the semifinals.
Kumagai, a veteran of the national team since 2008, lamented, “After our World Cup win, many girls were inspired to play football. However, interest has waned recently, as our team hasn’t performed well, and the Japanese people have lost some enthusiasm.”
Can the 2023 squad rekindle national passion and make it to their third World Cup final in four attempts?
‘Best Team We’ve Witnessed’ – Is Japan Poised to Triumph?
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A banner reading: “To our friends around the world – thank you for your support” was displayed by Japan’s players after their 2011 win, only a few months after the tragic earthquake and tsunami.
‘Japan Appears Unbeatable’
Despite falling to 11th in FIFA’s rankings since their 2015 World Cup final appearance, Japan is now playing with a vivacity and determination that has many predicting them to emerge victorious in Sydney on 20 August.
“They appear invincible,” commented former England forward Eniola Aluko on ITV1, after Japan’s 3-1 victory over Norway in the round of 16.
Aluko noted the team’s impeccable timing, chemistry, and confidence, adding, “They genuinely look like a team that cannot be beaten. How can Japan be stopped now?”
In a tournament filled with surprises, Ikeda’s team has remained strong and thrilling.
Their offensive prowess has been remarkable, with 14 goals in four games. This marks their highest goal tally in a single World Cup edition, outscoring Zambia (5-0), Costa Rica (2-0), Spain (4-0), and Norway (3-1).
While past champions like the USA, Germany, and Norway have been eliminated, Japan has steadily advanced.
Hinata Miyazawa leads the tournament in scoring with five goals from just six shots on target. Mina Tanaka has contributed two goals and three assists, goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita has allowed just one goal, and 19-year-old Aoba Fujino is second only to Spain’s Teresa Abelleira in created chances.
After some lackluster performances leading to the tournament, Japan’s current generation under Ikeda is displaying potential for surprises.
“This team has altered perceptions [at this World Cup],” declared Japanese sportswriter Midori Masujima on the BBC World Football podcast. “There’s a newfound confidence, and that’s positive.”
‘I Saw Japan’s Joy’
Eleven years later, the devastating earthquake and tsunami continue to affect over 31,000 people.
The emotional victory in 2011 brought joy to the nation, as Homare Sawa’s tearful mother expressed: “I felt all of Japan smile.”
American goalkeeper Hope Solo remarked on Japan’s win, “I believe that something greater was guiding this team.”
Former coach Norio Sasaki, who motivated his team with images of the disaster during the tournament, now accompanies the Nadeshiko in New Zealand.
Current coach Ikeda appreciates the support from home, stating on Thursday, “The Japanese people watching on TV, their backing, we feel it strongly.”
Back to the Top?
Ikeda has effectively rotated his 23-player squad, with 17 different starters in Australia and New Zealand.
Risa Shimizu, who scored against Norway, is among the four players who have started every game. Additionally, three Women’s Super League-based players have featured in Japan’s midfield, including Liverpool’s Fuka Nagano, West Ham’s Honoka Hayashi, and Manchester City’s Yui Hasegawa.
Nagano, who was inspired by the 2011 victory, expressed her belief in Auckland that the current Nadeshiko can repeat the feat.
“I was around 13 years old,” she reminisced on Thursday. “I was empowered by how the Nadeshiko played, and that’s my memory. We want to demonstrate Japan’s strength at this tournament, and we all believe we can do it.”
Hasegawa, who was deeply impacted by the 2011 World Cup victory, said it had an “unbelievably huge” effect on Japan and her own resolve.
As for the question of whether she will realize her dream this month, she echoes Ikeda’s sentiment, “We want to fight hard in every match and aim to reach the top of the world once again.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword Japan Women’s World Cup 2023
When is the 2023 Women’s World Cup quarter-final match between Japan and Sweden?
The match is scheduled for Friday, 11 August, with a kick-off time of 08:30 BST at Eden Park, Auckland.
Where can I watch the Japan vs. Sweden match in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
You can watch the match live on BBC One from 08:00 BST, BBC iPlayer, and the Sport Newes Center website & app. You can also listen on 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds.
What significance does Japan’s 2011 Women’s World Cup victory have for the current team?
Japan’s 2011 victory was an emotional triumph that followed a devastating earthquake and tsunami in the country. The win embodied the unbreakable spirit of a nation recovering from disaster and had a significant impact on the growth of women’s football in Japan.
Who are the key players to watch for Japan in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
Hinata Miyazawa is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals. Other key players include Mina Tanaka, goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita, and the 19-year-old Aoba Fujino.
What has been Japan’s performance leading up to the quarter-final in the Women’s World Cup 2023?
Japan has been playing with high confidence, scoring 14 times in four matches to sweep aside Zambia (5-0), Costa Rica (2-0), Spain (4-0), and Norway (3-1). Some analysts have described them as looking “unstoppable.”
How has the 2011 World Cup win impacted young players in Japan?
The 2011 World Cup win had a tremendous influence on young players in Japan, inspiring them to pursue football and dream of achieving the same success. Players like Fuka Nagano and Yui Hasegawa cite it as a significant motivating factor in their careers.