Friday's Olympic quarterfinal loss to Sweden highlighted the gap in physicalities and playing styles between head coach Asako Takakura's side and the rest of the world.
Dan Orlowitz is a sports writer for the Japan Times, focusing primarily on the J. League, Samurai Blue, and everything there is to print about Japanese soccer. A Philadelphia native and graduate of Simon's Rock College, he moved to Japan at the end of 2006 and fell in love with the beautiful game from behind the FC Tokyo goal. His words, photos, voice, and occasionally visage have appeared online, in print, and over the airwaves for numerous outlets in several languages since 2011.
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Sweden's physicality and attacking grit overwhelmed the host nation, which fought back from an early deficit but failed to build on promising attacks in the second half.
Poor performances by some of the sport’s powerhouses, including France — who were beaten by Japan 4-0 on Wednesday — are a reminder that the Olympic tourney is a different beast.
Sunday’s encounter at Saitama Stadium, where attacking midfielders Takefusa Kubo and Ritsu Doan lit up the Mexican defense, has Japan eyeing the podium.
Early goals by Takefusa Kubo and Ritsu Doan left the 2012 London champions struggling to fight back and put Japan in a strong position to advance to the knockout round.
The reigning world champion looked at ease against the Football Ferns at Saitama Stadium, putting its gold-medal aspirations back on track with goals from four players.
Clad in his homemade samurai armor and topknot, Hirokazu Tsunoda has used sporting events over the last decade to thank the world for its support after the March 11 disaster.
The 26-year-old leaves Vissel Kobe with a J1-leading 15 goals — and just over a year to prove his potential in Europe and potentially represent Japan at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Defender Saori Takarada and midfielder Honoka Hayashi, boasting a combined 14 senior caps, are among many new faces looking to lead a new generation for the country's women's team.
In sponsoring Japan's new professional women's soccer league, the two companies doubled down on their commitments toward gender equality other sustainable development goals.