In the hype around a big tournament, it’s easy to build a narrative that begins and ends with a team’s biggest star. But the players who make or break a squad are often further down the depth chart. Their success or failure will dictate a team’s tournament. These are The Influencers.
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Date of Birth: 16 June 1987
Place of Birth: Tochigi, Japan
Superpower: Brave leadership
Pardon the repetition here — because we’ve said this for Brazil, and it’s applicable to a few teams — but the Japan side you will see at this 2019 World Cup is not the Japan of yesteryear. It is not the side that won the 2011 World Cup, nor the one that returned to the final in 2015. Homare Sawa and Aya Miyama are gone; so, too, former coach Norio Sasaki.
In their place stand head coach Asako Takakura and a young team which has been tinkered with endlessly over the past two years.
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