All eyes are on Saki Kumagai, the Nadeshiko Japan team captain and defensive anchor, as the Women’s World Cup draws near. Kumagai hopes to follow in the footsteps of her great predecessors and reinstate Japan’s position among the top women’s soccer nations after leading her nation to victory in the 2011 World Cup. Thanks to her expertise, leadership, and tenacity, Kumagai is prepared to lead her side to victory in the forthcoming competition, which gets underway on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. Only Saki Kumagai, a 2011 World Cup-winning team member, competes in this year’s competition. She will be the oldest player under Japan manager Futoshi Ikeda at 32. Kumagai is charged with sharing her knowledge and guiding the younger players toward a better future as the only survivor of the team’s former greatness.
Kumagai observed the renowned Homare Sawa, who directed the team’s attack and later won the Ballon d’Or during the 2011 World Cup. Aya Miyama, another talented midfielder who took over as captain after Sawa’s retirement, guided Nadeshiko Japan to runners-up places in the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 World Cup. While acknowledging the impact of these legendary players, Kumagai is committed to leading in her own style while working to unite the squad and foster a healthy environment.
Kumagai hopes to carve her own path as captain while taking cues from her forebears. She enthusiastically engaged with the staff and her teammates throughout the pre-tournament camp, demonstrating her understanding of the value of inclusiveness and team bonding. Kumagai emphasised creating platforms for free dialogue within the team, cultivating camaraderie, and raising spirits before the World Cup. Kumagai wants to inspire her team members with confidence and foster a positive work atmosphere by being authentic to who she is and her leadership style.
Kumagai’s extensive big-match experience further emphasises her leadership abilities. She is the lone team member who participated in the 2011 World Cup triumph and the two subsequent major finals that the United States won. Kumagai’s participation gives the team a feeling of continuity and fortitude after Japan’s unfortunate failure to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Her poise and experience from prior triumphs and setbacks will be of immeasurable use in assisting Japan’s young and inexperienced players through the rigours of the World Cup.
With eight squad members from the 2019 World Cup in France, where Japan was defeated in the round of 16, and 14 players making their tournament debuts, Kumagai is determined to lead Nadeshiko Japan to victory. The unexpected exclusion of fellow 2011 World Cup champion Mana Iwabuchi emphasises Kumagai’s significance as the team’s senior player and leader. Kumagai acknowledges the pressure of expectations but stays focused on answering questions during the pitch and guiding her side to victory.
It will be extremely important for Saki Kumagai to lead Nadeshiko Japan in the 2018 Women’s World Cup. Kumagai wants to take her side back to the top of women’s football by using her squad’s World Cup experience and the motivation of previous coaches. She works to bring the team together and foster an environment that is successful by her uniqueness, inclusivity, and tenacity. As the team’s oldest player, Kumagai’s tremendous expertise will help Japan’s young players find redemption as they work to leave their mark on the world stage once again.