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FutureStarrSheBelieves Cup - USA Women's National Football
The SheBelieves Cup provides the USWNT with a unique opportunity to practice against potential World Cup opponents and build team chemistry. The round-robin tournament takes place mid-February at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Nashville and Toyota Park in Frisco, Texas.
The USA is currently ranked as the number one team in the world, while England sits fourth, Japan eighth and Brazil tenth. These three nations will all compete at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
Japan has long been a dominant force in women's soccer, with their Nadeshiko team winning two FIFA World Cups and four Olympics. Their 2011 victory marked an historic moment, sparking domestic support and inspiring renewed interest in women's football in Japan.
The women's team, coached by the Japan Football Association, boasts a diverse roster with half its players playing outside Japan. Notable names include Kumagai who currently plays club soccer in Germany; Tanaka and Fujino from Tokyo Verdy Beleza of the WE League; Minami who recently signed with Roma; Hasegawa who starts for Manchester City; and Hamano on loan from Chelsea.
Nadeshiko's current success can be attributed to Takakura and her young squad of players who are eager to build upon their first major title. With the introduction of the WE League in September 2022, these players will have a new platform to show off their talent as well as compete against one another in the future.
In the meantime, SheBelieves Cup has established itself as an iconic international women's soccer event. Established in 2016 to foster growth within American women's sports, this annual gathering features teams from England, France and the United States.
SheBelieves' mission is to promote women's sports, provide a platform for both athletic and non-athletic role models, and motivate girls to pursue their aspirations. Additionally, SheBelieves creates an encouraging competitive atmosphere which helps develop young athletes while honing their decision making abilities in times of adversity.
Every March, The SheBelieves Cup is one of the premier national women's soccer tournaments. Featuring six matches across MLS and NFL stadiums across America, this six-team event attracts huge crowds to MLS and NFL stadiums to witness some exciting action!
Though not as well-known or popular as other international sporting events such as the World Cup or Olympics, SheBelieves Cup still enjoys a substantial following and has helped build an avid base of supporters for women's sports in America. In addition to hosting the tournament itself, they have developed several programs and initiatives designed to foster growth within this sector of American soccer.
The SheBelieves Cup is an international invitational tournament for national teams in women's football hosted by the United States Soccer Federation. It takes place throughout different cities throughout America in a round-robin format, with hosts USA taking on Brazil, Canada and Japan in this year's event which begins February 16th in Orlando and concludes on February 22nd in Frisco.
The SheBelieves cup brings together some of the top female soccer players in the world. Teams have an opportunity to hone their skills and showcase them before a large audience, providing an incredible platform to build connections with fans and encourage them to get involved in the sport.
Young players in Japan have an invaluable opportunity to gain experience and discover what it takes to play international soccer. A number of their younger players have even been called up for the first time to the squad. It is a great platform for them to develop their talent and prepare for international duty.
On the roster, there are a few midfielders with international experience. Liverpool's Fuka Nagano stands out as a positionally disciplined ball-winner who prefers to back off on defense and contain instead of diving into challenges that could be exploited by faster opponents. She and West Ham's Honoka Hayashi have also been part of some high-profile matches.
Saki Kumagai is one of the most experienced players on the team, having represented Japan since she was 16. Growing up in a family of professional footballers, she spent most of her youth career with the Japanese national team.
She is a gifted player who has advanced through the Japan national team ranks, making several appearances in World Cup qualifying matches. As an important fulcrum for any team, she provides extra flair and aggression when attacking.
Despite her experience, she is still very young and has the potential to develop into a key player for Japan in the future. Additionally, she is an incredibly hard worker with the ability to play out of the back from her defensive midfield position, making her an excellent option for the Japanese national team as they aim for greater heights.
Japan's defenders are formidable, and they play an integral role in making their team successful. They don't hesitate to press high or do whatever it takes to gain possession of the ball and win crucial tackles. Plus, with plenty of depth available, Japan's defense can be hard to break down.
They possess an immense amount of self-belief, which was evident when they rallied from a goal down in their World Cup opener against Germany. That is why Japan is currently the highest ranked team in their group and why they made it this far.
Their defense is impressive, as evidenced in the opening four minutes of this match against the USA. They're flying into tackles and looking to create turnovers, creating problems for both teams.
Lindsey Horan does well to withstand intense pressure from Aoba Fujino, but she fumbles the ball away and Riko Ueki fails to convert on her free kick attempt.
Unfortunately, the USA's defense isn't doing as well. They're pressing high but the ball isn't moving quickly enough to get past Japan's wide overload. Furthermore, they appear to be making mistakes in their own half as well.
Despite this, they continue to create plenty of chances. They possess the ball in large amounts and look to get it into the penalty area as often as possible.
They boast an impressive combination of experience and youth, boasting a talented squad ready for the world stage in France this summer. Their squad features several internationals who have been playing club football in America such as Angel City's Jun Endo and Portland Thorns' Hina Sugita.
At the SheBelieves Cup, this group of defenders promises to be tough to beat. Not only that, but they'll provide a great test for the USA and should provide them with some valuable points. This game could serve as an early preview of how they'll fare at the World Cup in France this summer.
Japan's forwards are an impressive group that can score goals at will. Their squad consists of both experienced and young players alike, led by Riko Ueki and Mana Iwabuchi; the former has scored seven goals in nine international matches this year while coming off an impressive performance with Tottenham last season.
Yui Hasegawa is an exciting threat, particularly on the counterattack. Her speed and strength allow her to keep opponents off balance while also having a good eye for goals.
She may only be 5'1", but she's an impressive player who uses her height to get around defenders and create opportunities. Additionally, her speed when running with the ball in the air makes her a valuable asset. Additionally, she has natural ball-winning abilities which allow her to play either deep in midfield or move quickly up the attack line.
At the top of Japan's forward line, Riko Ueki and Mana Iwabuchi are likely to partner up. Both players possess great versatility; they can play on either wing or create from inside the box with precision. Their smart movements and combination will provide Japan with plenty of chances to score goals.
Sophia Smith has been one of the team's standout young forwards this year and has flourished with the Portland Thorns. A powerful striker with both left and right foot capabilities, Smith also displays impressive dribbling abilities as well as being an aggressive playmaker on the pitch.
At this year's SheBelieves Cup, Japan faces an uphill battle to catch up to the USA. That's why they must be at their best and demonstrate some creativity in transition if they hope to come out on top.
They must avoid making costly errors and make their opponents work hard to score goals. That is something the USWNT must also strive for if they want to secure their fourth consecutive SheBelieves Cup title.