Japanese World Cup winners to kick off Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay

Members of the victorious 2011 squad will start the domestic part of the Olympic Flame journey on 26 March in Fukushima Prefecture.

By Rory Jiwani ·

Members of Japan's victorious 2011 Women's World Cup football squad will start the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay in Fukushima Prefecture on 26 March.

Kozue Ando, Azusa Iwashimizu and goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori were at the announcement in Tokyo on Tuesday along with then-head coach Norio Sasaki.

Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay announcement (L-R): Ayumi Kaihori, Kozue Ando, Azusa Iwashimizu, Norio Sasaki

The 21 players and Sasaki have been asked to serve as the first torch bearers from the J-Village football training complex in Naraha Town.

The facility was fully reopened in April, eight years after serving as an evacuation area following the meltdown of three nuclear reactors caused by the Tohoko earthquake.

"It's a great honour. J-Village is a quite a memorable place for us. I'm very happy to be returning to run with my team-mates." - Ayumi Kaihori speaking at Torch Relay announcement

Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori celebrates during the 2011 Women's World Cup Final

A nation's triumph over adversity

Japan's Women's World Cup victory came just four months after the deadly earthquake and tsunami which ravaged the north-east of the country.

They beat the United States in the final in Frankfurt, winning 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out after captain Homare Sawa had levelled the match at 2-2 with three minutes remaining in extra time.

That remains the Americans' last defeat at a Women's World Cup, although they exacted revenge on the Japanese in the final of London 2012.

The triumph of 'Nadeshiko Japan' in 2011 raised spirits after the disaster with the team receiving the People's Honour Award from then-Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Yuzuru Hanyu is the most recent recipient of that accolade after retaining his Olympic figure skating title at PyeongChang 2018.

Japan celebrate their 2011 Women's World Cup Final win over USA in Frankfurt, Germany

Counting down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay

The event in Tokyo marked 100 days before the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay.

In June, the full route was announced with the Olympic Flame set to visit 857 municipalities in all 47 of Japan's prefectures.

The relay will reach the Japanese capital on 10 July ahead of the Opening Ceremony on 24 July.

Japan bids to host 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup

Only last week, Japan submitted final hosting documents in its bid for host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Brazil, Colombia and a joint-bid of Australia and New Zealand are the other candidates to stage the tournament where the United States will be bidding for a hat-trick of titles.

The decision is expected to be made in June 2020.

Japan reached the last 16 of the 2019 Women's World Cup, going down 2-1 to eventual runners-up the Netherlands.