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International friendly match recap: Japan 5, México 1

México ends their scoreless drought but still suffers a heavy defeat against Nadeshiko Japan.

Japan v Mexico - Women’s International Friendly Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

It wasn’t going to be an easy match by design. México traveled to Japan to face the 2011 World Cup winners on their home soil to test themselves, and while there were many lessons to be learned they ultimately came up short in the final score. Japan’s experience paid off as Nadeshiko downed México 5-1, however there were positives to take from the match.

México and Japan started the match on pretty even footing. The first good chance of the match came in the fifth minute when Momiki Yuka made a good move along the right side of the pitch and hit a ball in to a player, who hit a shot that hit off of the outside of the post. Japan then really kept the pressure on México, forcing them to spend a lot of time in their own end. Then in the 11th minute Japan had another good chance when X was played in and hit a shot, however it was right at Emily Alvarado, who absorbed the shot and held onto it to nullify the opportunity.

México had a decent opportunity in the 14th when Alison González made a nice move along the right side of the pitch and hit a pass to Stephany Mayor, however Mayor dribbled into trouble and passed into the legs of the Japanese center back, who calmly stopped the chance and cleared it out of harm’s way. In the 19th minute, Tanaka Mina came down on a counter and hit a shot that Alvarado again saved well.

México then started to put it together offensively. In the 28th minute, Jackie Ovalle intercepted a pass and hit a shot that was stopped by Ikeda Sakiko. The rebound then fell to Mayor, but her shot was blocked. In the 33rd minute Japan had a great chance when Then Japan finally broke through when Iwabuchi Mana cut in past Bianca Sierra and hit a perfectly placed shot far post.

México came back before the end of the half to get a couple of chances, but nothing really clicked before the halftime whistle.

In the second half, Japan scored just 35 seconds in when they countered and Iwabuchi went past her mark, threading a pass to Tanaka Mina who easily knocked the ball into the back of the net.

México came right back however when Stephany Mayor made a brilliant move down the right side and hit a cross that deflected off of a defender right to Alison González. González hit a powerful shot into the back of the net to draw México within one, ending a 355 minute goalless drought for México as well as stopping Japan’s 326 minute streak of not conceding dating back to March 11, 2020.

Then Japan used their experience when they did a quick restart on a free kick, catching México off guard to score. Hasegawa Yui stopped the ball just long enough after the whistle, then fired a pass into Iwabuchi who never broke stride going into the box. Iwabuchi drew the defense all the way down to the end line and then hit a back pass for Momiki Yuka, and she buried the ball into the back of the net.

Play evened out for a little bit, and México looked like they were going to get back into it somehow until a defensive breakdown in the 73rd cost them dearly. Endo Jun received the ball down the left flank and took it almost down to the end line before hitting a cross over to Kinoshita Momoka. Kinoshita was undefended and able to take two touches to settle the ball before firing past Alvarado.

Then with time running out, Japan iced it when Nakajima Emi played a perfect ball forward to Endo, who also didn’t break stride and hit a shot to end the match at 5-1 for the hosts.

México has a lot of work to do defensively. The fullbacks were repeatedly exposed, and good teams like Japan will prey on those weaknesses. That said, ending their scoreless drought against a tough team like Japan should be encouraging. Mónica Vergara can use the lessons learned to further prepare her squad for Concacaf Women’s Championship qualifications in November, which is how teams will earn a berth at the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Japan: Ikeda Sakiko; Miyagawa Asato (Takahashi Hana, 80’), Minami Moeka, Kumagai Saki, Shimizu Risa; Nakajima Emi, Hasegawa Yui (Miura Narumi, 81’), Hayashi Honoka (Sugita Hina, 71’); Iwabuchi Mana (Endo Jun, 71’), Momiki Yuka (Shiokoshi Yuzuho, 58’), Tanaka Mina (Kinoshita Momoka, 59’)

México: Emily Alvarado; Bianca Sierra, Jocelyn Orejel, Karina Rodríguez (Jimena López, 52’), Kenti Robles; Jacqueline Ovalle (Joseline Montoya, 84’), Carolina Jaramillo (Alicia Cervantes, 63’), Nancy Antonio, Belén Cruz (Rebeca Bernal, 77’); Stephany Mayor, Alison González (Nayeli Díaz, 84’)

Scoring: Japan - Iwabuchi Mana (36’), Tanaka Mina (46’), Momiki Yuka (53’), Kinoshita Momoka (73’), Endo Jun (87’); México - Alison González (49’)

Disciplinary: Japan - None; México - None