Japan went into the last World Cup full of confidence after two successive final appearances, but they didn’t reach those heights and will be looking to bounce back following their disappointment in France.
The 2011 winners look to have a decent group draw though having been paired with Zambia and Costa Rica alongside another fancied outfit, Spain, so confidence should also be high in the camp this time around.
Japan’s first World Cup experience in 1991 was not a memorable one as they didn’t score a goal in their three group matches, as well as suffering a heavy 8-0 defeat to Sweden. They did however get through the group stage four years later after a 2-1 win over Brazil, only to lose 4-0 to the USA in the quarter-finals.
Three group exits followed in 1999, 2003 and 2007, but their crowning glory came four years later when they went all the way.
They were defeated by England in the group stage, but victories over New Zealand and Mexico proved enough for them to progress.
Japan then caused a real stir by beating hosts Germany in the quarter-finals and Sweden in the last four, before coming out on top in a shootout against the Americans in the final.
They lost to the same opponents in the final four years later in Canada after beating England 2-1 in the semi-finals, but last time was a disappointment and Futoshi Ikeda’s side will want to make up for falling against the Netherlands in the last 16 in France.
Gaining a quarter-final victory in last year’s Women’s Asian Cup was enough to book Japan’s spot in Australia and New Zealand - South Korea, China and the Philippines also qualified by the same method.
They beat Myanmar 5-0 in their opening group game in India and followed that with a 3-0 win over Vietnam and a 1-1 draw with South Korea.
A 7-0 win over Thailand followed in the quarter-finals before they lost their semi-final to China on penalties.
Futoshi Ikeda played in the J-League as a left-back for Urawa Reds for three seasons before he started his coaching career by taking charge of the youth team at the same club.
He was also a coach at Avispa Fukuoka in the Japanese second division, before taking charge of the Japan Under-20 women’s team, which he led to World Cup glory in 2018.
Ikeda was also in charge of the Under-17 team that year and took charge of the full national team in 2021.
Goalkeepers: Ayaka Yamashita, Momoko Tanaka, Chika Hirao.
Defenders: Risa Shimizu, Moeka Minami, Saki Kumagai, Shiori Miyake, Kiko Seike , Miyabi Moriya, Rion Ishikawa, Hana Takahashi.
Midfielders: Fuka Nagano, Hinata Miyazawa, Hikaru Naomoto, Jun Endo, Yui Hasegawa, Hina Sugita, Honoka Hayashi, Aoba Fujino.
Forwards: Riko Ueki, Mina Tanaka, Maika Hamano, Remina Chiba.
One of the more familiar names in the Japan squad will be Manchester City’s Yui Hasegawa.
She joined Gareth Taylor’s side as part of a squad overhaul following the departure of Lioness Keira Walsh to newly crowned European champions Barcelona, playing her second season in English football following a campaign at City’s Women's Super League rivals West Ham.
She scored a memorable goal in the last World Cup in Japan’s defeat to the Netherlands, but we should see her in a much more advanced role when she plays for her national team.
Hasegawa should be given a lot more scope to get forward, which explains the fact she has scored 14 goals in 65 internationals, but found the net just three times at club level in the last two seasons.
Arsenal’s Mana Iwabuchi, who spent much of last season on loan across north London at Tottenham, has been omitted from the squad, so Mina tanaka could become the focus of the attack.
She has scored 23 goals in her 62 appearances for the national side, while Bayern Munich defender Saki Kumagai is the only survivor from the team that triumphed in Germany 12 years ago.
Liverpool’s Fuka Nagano and the West Ham duo of Risa Shimizu and Honoka Hayashi are the other WSL representatives in the squad.
Zambia v Japan, Hamilton, 22nd July
Japan v Costa Rica, Auckland, 26th July
Japan v Spain, Wellington, 31st July