Women’s world soccer champion Japan will face the United States and Brazil in upcoming London Olympic warmups without the services of talismanic midfielder Homare Sawa.
Coach Norio Sasaki on Thursday named a 23-woman squad for the three-nation Kirin Challenge Cup but was forced to leave out Sawa as the Women’s World Player of the Year has not yet made a full recovery from vertigo.
Sawa, 33, had missed the final two games of the Algarve Cup earlier this month, citing cold-like symptoms before she was diagnosed.
Defender Azusa Iwashimizu is also out through injury but Sasaki said their absences for the games in Sendai against the U.S. on April 1 and Brazil in Kobe four days later would provide other players with a chance to prove themselves.
“Sawa as you know has not yet rejoined her (club) teammates. There was no way she was going to be able to join this camp or play in these games so I have had to leave her out,” Sasaki told a news conference.
“We have lost a midfielder so obviously I have had to make selection changes. Iwashimizu also picked up a light injury in a friendly game the other day and it will be better in the long run for her if she focuses on treatment with her team.”
“This gives other players a chance and gives me a chance to look at other options. As a coach you have a dilemma because you want to give players experience but at the same time have to get results.”
“We are playing against two strong teams in the United States and Brazil at home. You don’t get many chances like this and we want to win the cup,” he said.
In the Algarve Cup semifinals, Japan edged the U.S. 1-0 in a rematch of the World Cup final, only to lose to Germany 4-3 in the championship match.
Sasaki has called in several players that were not on the Algarve Cup squad, including defenders Kyoko Yano and Chiaki Minamiyama and midfielder Megumi Kamionobe.
“If you look at both the United States and Brazil, individually, they have many players that are quicker and have more power and technique than we do. We have to improve our accuracy and movement and work stronger as a team to shut down our opponents’ individual strengths.”
Brazil plays the United States at Chiba’s Fukuda Denshi Arena on April 3.
Goalkeepers — Miho Fukumoto (Okayama Yunogo Belle), Ayumi Kaihori (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
Defenders — Yukari Kinga (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Kyoko Yano (Urawa Reds Ladies), Chiaki Minamiyama (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Aya Sameshima (Montpelier), Saori Ariyoshi (NTV Beleza), Asuna Tanaka (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Rumi Utsugi (Montpelier), Yuri Kawamura (Albirex Niigata Ladies), Kana Osafune (Vegalta Sendai Ladies), Saki Kumagai (FFC Frankfurt)
Midfielders — Aya Miyama (Okayama Yunogo Belle), Nahomi Kawasumi (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Megumi Kamionobe (Albirex Niigata Ladies), Manami Nakano (Okayama Yunogo Belle), Mizuho Sakaguchi (NTV Beleza), Yumi Uetsuji (Vegalta Sendai Ladies)
Forwards — Kozue Ando (FFC Duisburg), Shinobu Ono (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Yuki Nagasato (FFC Turbine Potsdam), Yurika Sugasawa (Albirex Niigata Ladies), Megumi Takase (INAC Kobe Leonessa)