Through four games, Japan has not only gone undefeated, it has not even really been challenged. Its first three games were overwhelming shutouts in which it lit up the scoreboard with a tournament-high 11 goals. Hinata Miyazawa led the way as the tournament’s best offensive player in group play, totaling four goals in the three wins.
Miyazawa’s squad proved itself human Saturday morning, as it finally relinquished a goal to a gritty Norway team. Still, Japan was clearly superior in a 3-1 victory. Another goal from Miyazawa, plus two others from her teammates, helped the turn back Norway and sent a message to the world that this tournament could belong to Japan.
The World Cup NOW crew — Jimmy Conrad, Heather O’Reilly, Melissa Ortiz, Leslie Osborne and Ari Hingst — discussed Japan’s continued command, and whether it’s the best team in the World Cup.
Conrad: “They never looked like they were uncomfortable, and I think that’s a sign of a good team.”
Ortiz: “Yeah, I think even in defensive transitions, they still held their balance, they still held their shape. You had your midfielders tucking in, you had your defensive line compact. In moments where Norway was literally going at them, they looked confident, they won balls. Yeah, there were circumstances or moments where it got scary … but still, Japan is not only dominant but composed, confident. … And with Hinata up top in the left wing, just with her dominance on the left side, that outlet, that just creates so much danger.”
Conrad: “To your point, Hinata Miyazawa scored her fifth goal, so she takes her Golden Boot up to five, everybody else is trying to catch her now that’s on three. Last time around, the last World Cup, six was the magic number to win the Golden Boot.”
O’Reilly: “If the U.S. does not win this thing, it’s either Japan or Spain. This Japan team, by the way, is unified, they are happy for each other. It seems very genuine, they’re just flying high. They’re obviously thrilled for Miyazawa, did you see all the reactions on the sideline when she bagged that breakaway? By the way, she is fast. I think that she is out-and-out fast. You add that to their incredible cadence … her separation speed … was incredible.”
Hingst: “Still, I want to point out, Japan is not invincible. We saw the one goal they conceded, and also right before it was 2-1, and Norway had two really big massive chances. … They are a great team, don’t get me wrong, but they are not invincible, and the result, 3-1, looks bigger than it was. By all fairness, they deserve it, but they are not invincible.”
Conrad: “What I like about Japan … they have to be the best team in the tournament at those through balls where the players can finish on one touch. They’re not taking that second, that third touch. … That’s a team that’s talked about ‘this is how we’re gonna have success.’ Especially when the line gets high, and you can make those late runs from outside to in. They’ve been excellent at that.”
O’Reilly: “Well I was thinking even … if you put your coaching hat on, you know a passing pattern, the last pass goes out wide and then you’re getting across, but like, their passing patterns are probably like a straight ball to a diagonal route.”
Conrad: “They have to be the best team in the tournament. I haven’t seen any other team do that as consistently as Japan.”
FIFA WORLD CUP WOMEN trending
Get more from FIFA Women’s World Cup Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more