Tottenham's Iwabuchi axed from Japan squad for World Cup

By AFP   June 12, 2023 | 11:09 pm PT
Tottenham's Iwabuchi axed from Japan squad for World Cup
Japan's Mana Iwabuchi in action. Photo by Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas
Experienced Tottenham forward Mana Iwabuchi was a surprise casualty when Japan coach Futoshi Ikeda named his Women's World Cup squad on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old Iwabuchi was part of the squad that won the World Cup in 2011 but has been dropped for Australia and New Zealand in July-August.

Japan are in Group C with Spain, Costa Rica and Zambia.

Ikeda named Manchester City's Yui Hasegawa, Liverpool's Fuka Nagano and West Ham pair Risa Shimizu and Honoka Hayashi in a 23-player squad.

Iwabuchi's absence means captain Saki Kumagai is the only survivor from the Japan team that won the World Cup.

Ikeda said Iwabuchi's omission was about "timing."

"Iwabuchi is a player who has done a lot to drive this team forward but I am choosing 23 players for this specific time and there is no one reason for my choices," he said.

"It's about form, fitness, the state of the team and what we need in certain situations."

Iwabuchi, who has spent this year on loan at Tottenham from North London rivals Arsenal, was aiming to appear at her fourth World Cup.

She wished the team luck in a post on social media.

"I wasn't able to make the squad this time but I hope the team can carry my emotions with them. Let's get behind Nadeshiko Japan," she wrote on Twitter, referring to the team by their nickname.

The captain Kumagai, who has just moved from Bayern Munich to Roma, scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out in the final against the United States 12 years ago.

Ikeda also found a place in the squad for Angel City forward Jun Endo, who suffered a knee injury last month.

Japan lost to the Netherlands in the last 16 at the 2019 World Cup, after reaching the final of the previous two tournaments.

Ikeda, who took over as coach in 2021, said his players were "determined to return Japan to a position of strength".

"We have started a professional league here and the players have grown playing in it, and others have gone abroad and improved there," he said.

"They want to make the national team stronger and I have great gratitude and respect for them."

Japan squad:

Goalkeepers: Ayaka Yamashita (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Momoko Tanaka (Tokyo Verdy Beleza), Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata)

Defenders: Risa Shimizu (West Ham United/ENG), Moeka Minami (Roma/ITA), Saki Kumagai (Roma/ITA), Shiori Miyake (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Kiko Seike (Urawa Reds), Miyabi Moriya (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Rion Ishikawa (Urawa Reds), Hana Takahashi (Urawa Reds)

Midfielders: Fuka Nagano (Liverpool/ENG), Hinata Miyazawa (MyNavi Sendai), Hikaru Naomoto (Urawa Reds), Jun Endo (Angel City/USA), Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City/ENG), Hina Sugita (Portland Thorns/USA), Honoka Hayashi (West Ham United/ENG), Aoba Fujino (Tokyo Verdy Beleza)

Forwards: Riko Ueki (Tokyo Verdy Beleza), Mina Tanaka (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Maika Hamano (Hammarby/SWE), Remina Chiba (JEF United).

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