The Japan women's national football team, or Nadeshiko Japan (なでしこジャパン), is a selection of the best female players in Japan and is run by the Japan Football Association (JFA). It is currently ranked 4th in the world.
During the 1970s, the number of women football players and teams increased in Japan, and teams made up regional leagues in various parts of Japan. In 1980, "All-Japan Women's Football Championship" was held, and in 1981 the Japan women's national football team played its first international match in Hong Kong. The team continued playing matches in Japan or in other countries, but it was not an "All Japan" national team but a temporarily organized team selected from the regional leagues.
Japan women's national football team attended various championship tournaments such as the 1996 Summer Olympics and the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup which had made the national team and the L. League very popular. However, in 1999, Japan failed to qualify for the 2000 Summer Olympics, and this helped to cause the withdrawal of a series of teams from the L. League. Japanese women’s football was on the verge of decline.
In August 2002, the Japan Football Association appointed Eiji Ueda, who had been coach for the Macau national football team, as the new head coach. Officials expected a revitalization of women's football and planned a team reorganization, aiming for the 2004 Summer Olympics. The team at first went through a losing streak, but Ueda gradually improved the team, and it eventually gained wide support in Japan. In particular, a game against Korea DPR, which decided who would participate in the 2004 Olympics, not only made fans rush to the National Stadium but also was widely watched on TV.
Following the increase in public interest in women's football in Japan, the JFA organized a public contest to select a nickname for the team. "Nadeshiko Japan" was chosen from among about 2,700 entries and was announced on 7 July 2004. "Nadeshiko", a kind of dianthus, comes from the phrase "Yamato Nadeshiko" (大和撫子, "ideal Japanese woman").
Again, in 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup held in China, they again faced Germany, Argentina and England. They started with a 2-2 draw over England, before beating Argentina 1-0 after 90'. But a 0-2 loss over reigning champion Germany again eliminated Japan from the group stage. Japan's disappointing campaign through two decisive Women's World Cup would not have expected to lead to a 2011 triumph.
Japan qualified for the finals by finishing third in the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup. After finishing second in their group behind England, Nadeshiko Japan beat two-time defending champion and host nation Germany 1–0 in the quarterfinals, before easily defeating Sweden 3–1 to reach the final.
After the final game finished 2–2 after extra time, Japan beat the United States 3–1 in a penalty shootout, becoming the first Asian team to win the FIFA Women's World Cup, and the first Asian team to win a senior FIFA title. It came right after men's team won the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, marked their most successful year in Japanese football.
Japan qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics by finishing first in the Asian qualifier in September 2011, only 6 weeks after winning the Women's World Cup. At the World Cup, after finishing second in their group behind Sweden, Nadeshiko Japan defeated Brazil 2–0 in the quarterfinals, followed by a 2–1 victory over France, whom Nadeshiko had lost to in a friendly match right before the Olympics, to reach the final.
In a rematch of the World Cup final, Japan was defeated in the Olympic final by a score of 1-2 against the United States, allowing two goals to Carli Lloyd in the 8th and 54th minutes. Yūki Ōgimi scored the lone goal for Japan.