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World Cup Qualifiers Final Round to resume in March, Nadeshiko to play in Kumamoto in April – Japan National Teams 2017 Schedule announced

23 December 2016

World Cup Qualifiers Final Round to resume in March, Nadeshiko to play in Kumamoto in April – Japan National Teams 2017 Schedule announced

The Japan Football Association (JFA) has announced the 2017 schedule of each category of Japan's national teams on Thursday 22 December. SAMURAI BLUE, the men's national team, have the remaining five fixtures of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Final Qualifiers resuming on 23 March with a match against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and lasting until the Saudi Arabia match to be held on 5 September.  Nadeshiko Japan, the women's national team, play their first match in their homeland under coach TAKAKURA Asako at the 2017 KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017 (opponents to be determined) on 9 April as a Kumamoto Earthquake's reconstruction supporting event.

SAMURAI BLUE stand in second place in Group B of the final qualifiers after five qualifying fixtures with the win over Saudi Arabia on 15 November. To grab the SAMURAI BLUE's sixth consecutive World Cup spot without condition, they need to finish at higher than third place. Ending in third place forces them to the playoffs including an intercontinental playoff against a CONCACAF team.

After March's UAE match, Japan play against Thailand on 28 March, Iraq on 13 June, Australia on 31 August and Saudi Arabia on 5 September. The matches against the UAE, Iraq and Saudi Arabia are held on the road.

SAMURAI BLUE coach Vahid HALILHODZIC talks about the loss to the UAE in the first match of the Asian final qualifiers. "We want to get them back for it next March," he expressed his enthusiasm. "We will train hard and achieve our goal."

Additionally, they take part in the EAFF E-1 Football Championship 2017 (formerly East Asian Cup) to be held from 8 to 16 December in Tokyo. The schedule of October and November's International weeks will be determined on a later day.

While Japan National U-20 Team play the FIFA U-20 World Cup to be held from 20 May in Korea Republic, Japan U-17s participate in the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held from 6 October in India. The U-20s have a camp in early March and an overseas trip in later in the same month before tuning up in a camp starting on 11 May just before the finals. The U-17s plan to go abroad four times between February and August before heading for the finals.

Nadeshiko Japan take part in the Algarve Cup 1 through 8 March in Portugal. The women's national team's matches scheduled in Japan include the Kirin Challenge Cup 2017 in April and the MS&AD CUP 2017 (opponents to be determined) on 22 October at Nagano U Stadium before Takakura's side compete in the EAFF E-1 Football Championship 2017 in Tokyo in December.

Nadeshiko Japan coach Takakura says, "I'm willing to play new faces and hopefully show Nadeshiko Japan's new possibilities in the April matches."

The men's futsal national team play the Asian Indoor Games in Turkmenistan from 17 to 27 September and the AFC Futsal Championship from 1 to 10 October (host country to be determined). Meanwhile, the women's team compete in the Asian Indoor Games in September after the AFC Women's Futsal Championship to be held from 15 through 26 August (host country to be determined). The men's futsal U-20s contend for the AFC U-20 Futsal Championship title in May.

Japan National Beach Soccer Team participate in the AFC Beach Soccer Championship from 18 through 24 February in Malaysia for a spot of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahama 2017 beginning on 27 April.


Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach, SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
In 2016, the national teams of the categories such as U-19 and U-16 left successful results. Particularly speaking, women’s categories played notably well in recent years, and men’s teams want to perform as well as they do. I still remember the frustration we felt after the loss to the UAE in the World Cup qualifiers, but we want to do pay back in March. The Middle East countries have improved in recent years, and I expect they will give us so much pressure at their home. But we have started preparing for that. We keep training ourselves and want to make sure to achieve our goals.

TAKAKURA Asako, Coach, Nadeshiko Japan (Japan Women’s National Team)
After I took this position in April, I have invited new players and tried to rebuild this team with a younger generation. For the first matches of our new team, we got to play against the USA and Sweden who were already ready for the Rio Olympics. That was surely our building blocks. We want to keep inviting as many new players as possible and taking a look at many different options. FIFA highly evaluate our organised collective plays that take advantage of great skills that our U-17s and U-20 possess, but I feel the absolute need of ours to develop players so that they can singlehandedly outplay opponents. We want to take this into consideration in developing our young generations.

UCHIYAMA Atsushi, Coach, U-20 Japan National Team
As we played matches in the final Asian qualifiers, our players got better and better. They grabbed the ticket to the world tournament after four straight absences with their own ability. In that tournament next year, we want to advance to the knockout stage and feel how exciting the world’s top level is. We want to prepare ourselves well for it.

MORIYAMA Yoshiro, Coach, U-17 Japan National Team
At this year’s AFC U-16 Championship, we won the spot in the world tournament. But the disappointment of the loss to Iraq at the semi-final has gradually felt more and more strongly. We want to repay that at the world tournament. I want to develop my players into ones who are fearless and aggressive against any opponents.

Bruno GARCIA, Coach, Japan Futsal National Team
It’s been only two months since I started coaching the team. To rebuild the team, I am laying out the short-term, mid-term and long-term plans and establish our strategy based on the current state of Japan which I am now doing research on. We want to establish the identity of Japan’s futsal team. The foundation of our national team will be the pride and responsibility as Japanese international, team spirit, and understanding each other.

Marcelo MENDES, Coach, Japan Beach Soccer National Team
This year we showed our potential to be one of the top teams in the world thanks to the hard work by the players and the team staff. We still have a big job left to finish which is winning a spot in the World Cup. So we will start again from scratch and make sure to reach our goal. The clinics and promotional efforts we do for players, kids and coaches have started bearing fruits little by little. We now have four national team players who grew out of the clinics.

TASHIMA Kohzo, President, Japan Football Association
The most important thing in 2017 is the FIFA World Cup Russia qualifiers. It will be a tough road ahead, but we definitely want to win the ticket to Russia. With every support system the JFA can offer, we will help the team make it happen. Next year, other categories also play in world tournaments. Our U-20 play in the tournament for the first time in the last five tries. We hope they will show the top-level performance as Asian champions. Our U-17 go back to the tournament after failing to qualify in the last one. Getting to play against the world’s elites at age 17 means so much for the rest of their career and the room to grow. I expect them to play without fear and hesitation. As for women, the U-17 team finished second at the world tournament and the U-20 team finished third while NAGANO Fuka and SUGITA Hina won the MVP award in their respective tournament. I have high expectation for Nadeshiko Japan who are taking advantage of the bitter feeling of missing the Olympics appearance and allowing the next generation to take over.

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