Asako Takakura

Asako Takakura announces Japan squad for international friendlies against USA

Asako Takakura, the new coach of Japan, forms her own squad.

Asako Takakura has announced her first team selection since taking the role as the new Japan head coach.

The squad will take part in the two international friendly matches against World Champions USA on 2 and 5 June 2016.

Nadeshiko Japan squad to play USWNT


#1 Erina Yamane (Chiba)
#12 Ayaka Yamashita (NTV)
#18 Sakiko Ikeda (Urawa)


#2 Saori Ariyoshi (NTV)
#3 Tomoko Muramatsu (NTV)
#4 Saki Kumagai (Lyon)
#5 Yuri Kawamura (Sendai)
#6 Rumi Utsugi (Montpellier)
#19 Mayu Sasaki (Sendai)


#7 Emi Nakajima (Kobe)
#8 Sonoko Chiba (Harima)
#10 Mizuho Sakaguchi (NTV)
#13 Rika Masuya (Kobe)
#14 Yu Nakasato (NTV)
#15 Hikari Takagi (Nojima)
#17 Ami Sugita


#9 Yuki Ogimi (Frankfurt)
#11 Yuika Sugasawa (Chiba)
#16 Mana Iwabuchi (Bayern)
#20 Kumi Yokoyama (Nagano)

Video: Takakura’s press conference:

Some notable points:

Ariyoshi, Sakaguchi and Ogimi, all born in 1987, are the eldest in this squad. Takakura said Miyama is the only one still older she wanted to include, but Miyama declined saying she is not in a condition to play internationally. Takakura did not even talk to other senior players. In other words, Ohno, Kinga, Iwashimizu, Kawasumi, Sameshima, Ando and Fukumoto (all in their 30s) are “retired” in Takakura’s mind.

What I find most interesting is this comment by Takakura.

“I want each player works hard to make herself indispensable, someone without whom the team collapses. However, I will do my own hard work to build a team which does not rely on any individual player.”

I doubt Norio Sasaki could ever make such a provocative comment. But Takakura is right. When we speak of competition within a team we tend to believe it means competition among players. But a healthy competition between player and manager is also important.

Two reporters asked why #10 is reassigned from Ogimi to Sakaguchi. We saw #10 used by Sawa for many years was given to Ogimi by Norio Sasaki during the (disastrous) Olympics qualifiers. In other words Sasaki named Ogimi as the successor of Sawa. Then Takakura took over Sasaki and say Sakaguchi is the Sawa’s successor. I believe the reporters’ real intended question was “Why do you overturn the Sasaki’s decision?” asked on behalf of the ex-coach who is undoubtedly displeased. Takakura answered Sawa’s successor is to assume the same role Sawa did and that’s Sakaguchi. Ogimi’s job is to score goal and therefore she should wear #9. Now, in my very personal view, it is most important that Takakura makes it clear she does not agree with Sasaki. Sasaki did a LOT of stupid things.

  1. Skip Newhall 5 years ago

    As a matter of interest, there does indeed seem to be a certain cachet connected with jersey number 10 in soccer: Pelé [Brazil], Marta [Brazil], Lionel Messi [Barcelona], Wayne Rooney [Manchester United], Homare Sawa [Japan], to name a few.

    Popular perception has arisen that #10 is awarded to the “best” player on the team. That may or may not be true, but to let politics influence the assignment of jersey numbers is something that should not be tolerated. Suppose a team member significantly outplays Mizuho over the next 18 to 24 months. Then what? Does #10 get taken from Mizuho and given to the new star? There is no easy solution to this one.

    • Author
      Ken Suzuki 5 years ago


      I believe Takakura’s management policy is to minimize any significance of jersey number felt by people, players and general public alike. See some numbers “reassigned” this time.

      #2: Kinga -> Ariyoshi
      #3: Iwashimizu -> Muramatsu
      #5: Sameshima -> Kawamura
      #6: Sakaguchi -> Utsugi
      #9: Kawasumi -> Ogimi

      Most notablly, Takakura lets Sonoko Chiba, virtually unknown even in Japan, use #8 which was assigned to Aya Miyama for all these years we have been watching Nadeshiko Japan, even though Takakura says she still needs Miyama.

      Here, too, Takakura overturns the tradition long-established under Norio Sasaki who never changed a player’s number except for cases some were “promoted.” (See Sameshima was changed from #15 to more prestigious #5 after the 2011 cup.) This reflects the two managers ways of management. Sasaki always hated to see his beloved veterans are surpassed by new ones and ended up spoiling all, young players as well as veterans. Takakura must discontinue this bad habit. She must reinvigorate the competition among players. Changing jersey numbers is part of this policy, I believe.

      So, to answer your question, yes I think it is very possible #10 is taken away from Sakaguchi and given someone else anytime. And if Sakaguchi is wise enough to understand why Takakura does so, then she will agree.

  2. Author
    Ken Suzuki 5 years ago

    Even if I am not a fan of conspiracy theory, there is one thing I feel I must tell about, the #10 of Nadeshiko Japan.

    First of all, it was a stupid (almost crazy) act that Norio Sasaki gave #10 to Yuki Ogimi, not because Ogimi did not deserve it, but everyone knew 2016 was Sasaki’s last year even if his team went to Rio.

    #10 of Nadeshiko Japan carries a big weight, a prestige, because one who wears it is viewed as Homare Sawa’s successor. Now that Sawa is retired, it is a job of new manager to decide who is to assume the position, role, and, above all, status that belonged to the “Nadeshiko Queen.” Why, then, a departing coach made such last-minute decision and left it as his legacy? What did he expect his successor to do? Just accept his will and make it her own initial condition?

    But new coach has her own plan and the player who can contribute to it most is the new “Sawa” of the new team. Naming Ogimi to the post, Sasaki stole from Takakura the privilege and responsibility exclusively hers. And here I can’t help but wonder because I know Norio Sasaki is not a fool. Did he do it deliberately? Was it his sinister plot to retain his influence in the national team?

    On the surface, Takakura outsmarts Sasaki by presenting a nice reason to retrieve #10 from Ogimi, “Yuki Ogimi should use #9 as her job is to score goals,” thus minimized the humiliation suffered by Ogimi seriously otherwise. However, Takakura was forced to reassign it to Sakaguchi immediately to make the change easy to Ogimi who sees #10 is rather given to the league MVP than simply denied to her. But I doubt this was the Takakura’s original plan.

    In fact, if I were in Takakura’s shoes I would rather keep #10 open and use it to motivate players. Post of Sawa could be a big award that can encourage. And who knows the next “Sawa” would not appear among the ones yet to be called to the international A team? We all know Takakura’s real disciples, the ones she nurtures as her treasure, are the U20 players, often dubbed “Takakura children” who will be 22-24 at the time of all-important Tokyo Olympics. Yuka “Nicole” Momiki uses #10 in this team, just for your information.

  3. WSU 5 years ago

    Thank you Ken.

    It is a shame Miyama felt not fit enough to play international level but I admire her for telling Asako, as I believe she is thinking of what is best for the team.

    Takakura has not disappointed in her squad selection – it needed a big change and I am very interested to see how this team performs against USA next month.

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