After lighting up FIFA Women’s World Cup, perhaps 2023 just was not Japan’s time yet


For the 450 minutes or in order that Japan graced the huge stage that’s the FIFA Women’s World Cup, few would argue they’ve not been one of the thrilling sides on the match.

Barring an hour or so in Friday’s quarterfinal in opposition to Sweden, the place they had been uncharacteristically hesitant, lacklustre and even passive.

Unfortunately for Nadeshiko, these 60 minutes had been in the end pivotal because it was the interval the place the Swedes would set up a two-goal lead that proved essential in a 2-1 victory that noticed them advance to the final 4 — regardless of a stirring rally from the Japanese.

With their WWC hopes quick evaporating, Japan lastly acquired again to being Japan within the ultimate half-hour of Friday’s contest.

They began shifting the ball methodically and ventured ahead with intent.

They actually ought to have pulled one again earlier when Riko Ueki smashed a penalty off the bar. Aoba Fujino was tremendously unfortunate not to attain with an outstanding freekick that hit the submit and one way or the other stayed out after ricocheting off the again of Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic and discovering the woodwork a second time.

And then when substitute Honoka Hayashi reacted quickest to pounce on a unfastened ball to smash an effort previous Musovic within the 87th minute, it seemed like an almighty comeback was on the playing cards. Especially when ten minutes of added time had been signalled shortly after.

In the tip, although, it was to be a case of too little too late for Japan.

Understandably, there was no scarcity of tears flowing on the ultimate whistle. Despite the perfect efforts of the gracious victors, many within the Japanese camp had been inconsolable — and so they could be for days and weeks to come back.

Nadeshiko will lament their poor begin to the competition in opposition to Sweden, which was the one time of their whole marketing campaign the place they’ve seemed off the tempo. They will rue lacking that further little bit of fortune from the best way the woodwork emerged because the Swedes’ final line of defence when Musovic and firm had been overwhelmed.

As the ultimate former champions remaining within the draw previous to their defeat, they might have been believing they had been a real probability to emulate their earlier triumph from 2011.

Yet, when the mud ultimately settles, the Japanese could be extraordinarily happy with their efforts whereas additionally acknowledging that possibly 2023 was not their time.

Just not yet.

Even earlier than the match kicked off, there have been queries over the place Japan genuinely ranked among the many different title contenders. Any doubts quick evaporated with every dominant win they racked up within the group stage after which the spherical of 16.

But perhaps they exceeded expectations and ending as quarterfinalists is roughly the place they’re at proper now.

It is value noting that Japan’s squad at this World Cup has a mean age of just 24.9 years. By no means had been they a vastly skilled outfit completely primed for a cost on the trophy.

From their whole 23-player roster, solely captain Saki Kumagai – at 32 – is a significant doubt when the subsequent Women’s World Cup rolls round in 4 years’ time.

Yui Hasegawa, who nearly singlehandedly led Nadeshiko‘s comeback try in opposition to the Swedes, needs to be in her prime come 2027 on the age of 30. The identical may very well be the case for her central midfield companion Fuka Nagano, two years her junior.

Breakout stars Hinata Miyazawa and Jun Endo are each nonetheless 23, whereas Fujino was a fixture in coach Futoshi Ikeda’s beginning XI at just the age of 19.

The future appears to be like exceedingly brilliant for the Japanese even when the current has delivered a heartbreaking quarterfinal exit on the Women’s World Cup.

2023 will not be Japan’s time. 2027 may yet be.


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