Nadeshiko Japan must overcome major obstacles in medal pursuit

Kyodo -- Apr 23
If the Japanese women's football team are to achieve their goal of a gold medal on home soil at this summer's Tokyo Olympics, they must overcome a disjointed preparation caused by the coronavirus pandemic along with a lackluster track record against elite opponents in recent years.

Members of the 2011 World Cup-winning Nadeshiko Japan side led off the domestic leg of the Olympic torch relay last month under circumstances that reflected some of the obstacles facing the current squad as they gear up for the games kicking off in three months' time.

Rising coronavirus infections prevented spectators from watching as the runners set off from the J-Village training center in northeastern Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, while travel restrictions aimed at curbing the virus prompted a number of overseas-based stars to opt out of the relay.

With the pandemic interrupting the international football calendar, world No. 11 Nadeshiko Japan lost vital warmup opportunities for the Olympics, where they have been drawn against Canada, Great Britain and Chile in Group E.

Asako Takakura's side had been set to face Brazil, Canada and hosts the United States at the four-nation SheBelieves Cup in February, but the coronavirus situation prompted the Japan Football Association to withdraw shortly before the tournament.

They played their first internationals in more than a year earlier this month, thrashing Paraguay and Panama 7-0 in a pair of friendlies on home soil.

- Kyodo