Update: Japan defeated Cameroon 2-1 on Friday, June 12 (game highlights can be viewed here). Japan now leads Group C at the FIFA Women's World Cup.
Despite winning their first match earlier this week in Canada, an injured star player may spell trouble for Japan's hopes at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
The “Nadeshiko Japan” Japanese women's soccer won the previous Women's World Cup in 2011 in Germany, beating the U.S. women's team 3-1 in a shootout after the teams were tied 2-2 following regulation and overtime.
The powerhouse women's national team is quite popular in Japan, and is best known by its nickname Nadeshiko Japan, and is a selection of the best female players in Japan.
— 超ワールドサッカー (@ultrasoccer) June 5, 2015
Special: Women's World Cup challengers Nadeshiko Japan! They will take on Switzerland, Cameroon and Ecuador in the Group C competition.
The Japan women's team nickname is derived in part from the nadeshiko flower and the concept of the “ideal” Japanese woman.
While the nickname comes from the general respect and adoration the Japanese public has for its World Cup winners, Nadeshiko Japan does in some ways symbolize the status of women in Japan. Travelling to the 2012 Olympics, the Japan women's soccer team was stuck flying in economy class, while the men's team enjoyed more comfortable business class seats.
It took an online petition signed by more than 20,000 supporters in 2012 to persuade Japanese Olympic organizers to upgrade Nadeshiko Japan to business class on the flight home.
Nadeshiko Japan kicked off their 2015 FIFA World Cup campaign by “barely” beating Switzerland 1-0 in their first Group C game on Monday, June 8, 2015, at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.
— Womens Soccer United (@WomensSoccerUtd) June 8, 2015
Responding online to the official FIFA recap of the Japan-Switzerland game, one fan noted:
Japan had a really bad second half. They better hope this was an off day, otherwise they will leave this tourney early. Their midfield became gelatine after Sawa was substituted, and after the first 45 minutes, they were never able to connect more than five passes in a row, and had awful ball control.
The series got off to a troubled start for the Japanese team when leading scorer Kozue Ando fractured her ankle in the first half.
— キング (@webstyleking) June 10, 2015
Bitter disappointment after Nadeshiko Japan's Ando fractures ankle and withdraws from World Cup. Japan Football Association (JFA) announced on June 10th that it was confirmed following a medical examination that midfielder Kozue Ando had broken her left ankle.
While teammate Aya Miyama managed to score on the penalty, Ando will be leaving her tight-knit team in Canada to head home to Japan. Ando's injury was a terrible blow for many fans:
— ごりぱん (@goripang) June 9, 2015
Argh… Kazue Ando broke her ankle! (。´Д⊂) And she had made it all the way to this year's World Cup!
Others observed that Nadeshiko Japan may be in serious trouble without Ando:
— アシト (@Suruga_Ashito) June 9, 2015
It really hurts that Ando, who always so skillfully works to balance out the offense, could be forced to withdraw from the series because of such an unlucky injury. [Yuika] Sugasawa has plenty of power on her own but doesn't really play strategically. In the second half [Yuki] Ogimi's playing was pretty muted, so the number of [Nadeshiko] attacks were way down.
Japan will tackle Cameroon next at a 7:00 p.m. local time in Vancouver, British Columbia. Considered a long shot in this World Cup series, on June 8 Cameroon thrashed Ecuador 6-0, the largest margin of victory for any African team in a World Cup.
With the Nigeria Super Falcons win against Sweden earlier in the week, and with Cameroon's overwhelming win, there is hope that an African team will finally claim a World Cup crown in 2015.
Coming into the 2015 World Cup, 2011 champion Nadeshiko Japan is regarded as the team to beat, so all eyes will be on Cameroon's Friday night match with Japan on June 12.