Vocal Midfielder Hasegawa Spurs Nadeshiko Toward Glory

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Midfielder Yui Hasegawa makes a pass in an intrasquad practice game on Wednesday in preparation for Nadeshiko’s first World Cup match against Zambia in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday.

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — Nadeshiko Japan, the women’s national soccer team, has been making final preparations for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup at their camp in Christchurch, New Zealand. The players’ expressions are becoming more serious as they aim to win the championship for the first time since topping the world in 2011 in Germany, an achievement that encouraged Japan in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From left, Saki Kumagai, Mina Tanaka, Risa Shimizu and other Nadeshiko members practice on Wednesday for a match against Zambia in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Saturday.

A key player in both attack and defense for Nadeshiko Japan is Yui Hasegawa, a 26-year-old midfielder who plays for Manchester City in England. The steadfast Hasegawa, an integral part of the team, has emphasized discipline and communication as the team prepares for the World Cup.

One day earlier this month at a training camp in Chiba, Hasegawa shouted on the pitch. She was not satisfied with the move of a player who had received a pass and headed to the side. Had the player simply turned and went straight up the field, Hasegawa pictured a quick scoring chance.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Spectators at a Nadeshiko Japan practice hold up a banner in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Monday.

Remembering the frustration of four years ago, when the Japanese team was eliminated in the round of 16, she will not allow any compromise on the pitch.

Ever since she started with the team, Hasegawa has been pursuing her ideal and demanding a high level of play from her teammates. Hasegawa describes herself as “pretty cocky,” but her former coach recalls, “She was a nag, but she put in the effort to match her words.”

She feels that the players in England she currently plays with are very assertive, while the Japanese teammates seem too quiet.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan team coach Futoshi Ikeda, right, watches Japan practice in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Wednesday.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
A sign displays a welcoming message for the Japan team at Christchurch International Airport in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Tuesday.