The Nadeshiko, Japan’s women’s national football team, defeated China 1-0 to finish 5th in the Algarve Cup, a global invitational tournament for women’s national teams. The women’s world champions suffered defeats against Norway and Germany, before beating Denmark on Monday.
China, a two time champion in this tournament, looked to have contained Japan as they ended the first half 0-0. But a few defensive mistakes in the middle of the second half proved to be their undoing. A free kick by Emi Nakajima in the 67th minute allowed Turbine Potsdam soccer superstar striker Yuki Ogimi to sweep it home and score her 43rd international goal in 95 appearances for the Nadeshiko. After the goal, Japan continued to pressure the Chinese defense, almost scoring two more goals in a span of three minutes. The two continental rivals last met in September 2011 for the qualifiers of the London Olympics, with Japan winning 1-0 as well.
Considering that the Nadeshiko reached the finals here last year, placing 5th among 12 competing teams might seem like a disappointment. But the squad sent to this annual competition only had two players from their London Olympic team. Coach Norio Sasaki took the opportunity to get new players into the team and give them international exposure. He admits that a lot of them were probably nervous, leading to mistakes in their first two defeats. But eventually the team settled in and placing 5th was a good result. Japan has never won this tournament and will look to improve their performance in next year’s tournament.
Algarve Cup is one of the most prestigious tournaments in women’s football, together with the Women’s World Cup and Women’s Olympic Football. The United States defeated Germany 2-0 on Wednesday to win their 9th Algarve Cup title.