Hi, guys, and welcome in this new year to all of the small contingent of Nadeshiko Japan posters and to all of the less-small-but-I-am-afraid-anyway-not-humongous contigent of Nadeshiko Japan followers who don't post much, or at all, but anyway keep loyally reading us! Phew, It's 2018! Hey, we must admit 2017 was highs-and-lows for Nadeshiko Japan football (including overseas players): Highs: - we won AFC U-19 Asian Championship, with a very convincing young team, giving us high hopes for U-20 WWC. - We've got second place at Universiade 2017: considering it was a worldwide tournament and we've got a silver medal, I count it as an "high" and for sure not just a "so-so". - Saki Kumagai once again won Champions' League with OL. - Yukari Kinga had a sort of second youth in Australia/China and nearly won Australian league with Canberra United, before lately joining Melbourne City, although with a little less luck. - Mana Iwabuchi flourished again, after a longtime injury had kept her from pursuing her career in Bayern München. So-so: - We weren't even in the final of AFC U-16 Asian Championship, but we anyway managed to grab the ticket for U-17 WWC by winning the third-place match vs China; hey, that was the important thing! - we won two matches and lost two matches at Algarve Cup; a quite disappointing tournament to tell the truth: I can't actually tag it as a "low", though, because there were some good matches anyway, like the one vs Iceland, because Yokoyama was still scoring like crazy and because after all we lost a deciding match for an own-goal at the last minute vs the team that would eventually become Euro Champions 2017, i.e. Netherlands. - developent of the Senior NT goes on, even if I am not sure if this has to go with the "so-so"s or the "lows": let's say that we put here everything good that we can take, and we're going to soon discuss the "lows" below. - Nadeshiko club football is quite interesting to follow and showcases some good domestic talents. Anyway I am wondering if Beleza's dominance doesn't depress development a little, in a NT perspective... Although I must admit it's not much different from INAC years, when everything was good for Nadeshiko NT. Yes, there were unexpected results (JEF United winning Nadeshiko League Cup, Nojima Stella Kanagawa in the final of Empress' Cup), but these looked quite random and episodic. I'll just add that quality (and especially completeness) of video-coverage is anyway absolutely unsatisfactory compared to most important women's leagues in the world. - Kumi Yokoyama migrated to Frauen-Bundesliga and found a solid starting place in 1.FFC Frankfurt, but her team's position is not so good right now and her scoring spell seemed to run out. - Erina Yamane went overseas, but in a quite mediocre-positioned team of a quite mediocre-positioned league (compared to the best European ones). - Yuki Ogimi seemed to somehow find her place in Chicago Red Stars, but her team didn't succeed in play-offs and one can wonder if her NT career hasn't finished for good. - Ryoko Takara won Norwegian league with LSK-Kvinner, but clearly fell out of grace in the second part of the season and got back to Japan in the end. - Ami Otaki, who was a very promising player back in 2012, came back from retirement this year and joined Paris FC: she's now considered just a bench-player, but we can't help smiling for having her back on the pitch. Lows: - although it was just a bunch of glorified friendly matches, our performance at Tournament of Nations was abysmal. - We recently lost quite clearly the final of 2017 EAFF East-Asian Championship in Japan: we don't rule anymore, not even in our share of Asia. - in general, Nadeshiko Japan lost quite some positions in FIFA rankings, being on the verge of exiting top 10. In Sasaki's era, I guess we were solidly in top 5 for most of the time. Let's say that NT's development is a long process and, as Manchester Nadeshiko put it at the end of 2017 thread, we're not really sure where we're at, after 2 years of Takakura's tenure. - Although Rumi Utsugi was one of the best players in her team and Nahomi Kawasumi set an NWSL assists' seasonal-record, Seattle Reign's season was very disappointing, since they couldn't even grab 4th place to play-off for the title. - Yuri Kawamura, as it was recently mentioned, had a good start in NWSL, only to face a season-ending injury soon after. The future ahead Well, ok, we're now in 2018, that's when push comes to shove. Many deciding moments wait for us in this season. If we only consider National Team football, we have: - Algarve Cup 2018 at the beginning of March. Ok, probably the less important tournament of the season, but a good training ground for AFC Asian Cup. Also, I anyway miss a good result at Algarve (and, beyond that, Manchester Nadeshiko will be there and we all want to see him celebrate!) - AFC Asian Cup 2018 in April: that's the key moment; we're in the hardest group, but we need to qualify for WWC 2019 anyway. Actually, we should manage to make it even should we finish third in our group, but of course that's not what we want to happen. By far, the most important event of the year. - U-20 WWC in France in August. I'd call it the second most important event of the year. We have a very good team and I guess we go in France to fight for the title. It would be very important also to furtherly develop young players for Senior Team in a 2019-2020 perspective. - 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, in August-September (I guess the schedule will be conflicting with U-20 WWC, so Takakura won't be able to call U-20 players, if she had that in mind). In 2010, winning Asian Games was quite the springboard for Sasaki's team to take the crucial leap to 2011, I guess. Can the story be repeating? - U-17 WWC in Uruguay at the end of November. When there is a youth WWC, Japan always has to fight for the title, although this team was less convincing than our U-20 on the Asian scene. Although I am not sure about that, I guess it's quite likely that US Federation will make another Tournament of the Nations and will invite Japan. If that's not conflicting with the rest of our schedule, it could probably be a good training ground for Asian Games. Whew! Did I forget anything? Well, I just forgot to wish a nice, funny, peaceful and sportsmanslike year to all of our teams, to all of our players, and to all us followers. A year ago, I had made a wish for Miyama, that unluckily didn't come true. I spend anyway another though for her right now. Please Aya, come back somehow to Nadeshiko football, even if not in the form of the player we all knew and venerated. Also, as I did in previous years, I am probably going to post soon some rankings of Nadeshiko club football's seasonal scorers: expect it soon on this new thread. I am going to post the link to this thread on the previous one and then ask moderators to lock it.