The Japan women’s football team beat a Japan Women’s League XI 3-2 in a charity match for victims of the East Japan earthquake at the National Stadium in Tokyo on Friday night.
The Nadeshiko’s first game on home soil since winning the World Cup in Germany in July drew plenty of attention from the public and the Japanese government. Eight Cabinet members, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, Education Culture Sports and Science Minster Yoshiaki Takagi and Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, attended the match.
The two teams met Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the pitch shortly before the game.
The national team players faced strong resistance from the League XI early in the game and former Japan international Tomomi Miyamoto came close with a shot from outside the box in the eighth minute.
But the Nadeshiko, playing without overseas-based players such as Kozue Ando and Saki Kumagai, went 1-0 ahead when Yukari Kinga connected with an Aya Miyama cross in the 15th minute.
The 22,049 spectators saw Norio Sasaki’s side widen their lead three minutes later when forward Nahomi Kawasumi slotted home a ball from Karina Maruyama.
The world champions continued to attack and made it 3-0 in the 23rd minute when midfielder Mizuho Sawaguchi neatly headed in an Aya Miyama free-kick.
The Nadeshiko could have widened their lead before the break, but World Cup MVP Homare Sawa’s header drifted wide.
The League XI started fighting back after the break with halftime substitutes Nanase Kiryu of NTV Beleza and Miwa Yonezu making some good moves up front.
Four minutes in to the half, forward Yuika Suganuma of Albirex Niigata tapped in a Kiryu feed from the left, pulling one goal back for the League side.
Fifteen minutes later, Kiryu tried to chip goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto, but as the ball bounced towards the empty goal substitute Megumi Kamionobe came to the rescue for Japan.
The Nadeshiko came close in the 80th minute with Kawasumi’s shot from the edge of the box, but Maiko Otomo protected her goal.
The League XI team went on the attack and threatened the Nadeshiko goal with attempts by Manami Nakano and Kiryu late in the second half.
Their efforts paid off when substitute forward Ayaka Watanabe was brought down in the box. The AS Elfen Sayama forward converted the spot kick to make it 3-2.
After the game, players from both sides paraded around the field holding a “Thank you” banner for the support they received during the World Cup.