Homare Sawa is slated to appear in a record sixth World Cup this year after being named to Japan’s 23-player roster for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
No man or woman has ever appeared in six World Cups.
Sawa, 36, appeared in the last five World Cups after debuting for Japan in 1993. scoring eight goals in 18 matches. She scored the game-tying goal in extra time of the 2011 World Cup final against the U.S. to send the match to penalty kicks, where Japan completed a miraculous run to win the Women’s World Cup for the first time. Sawa would go on to win FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year honors.
Sawa’s appearances with Japan have been limited of late, creating some doubt that she would be a part of Japan coach Norio Sasaki’s plans this year. She did not travel with the team to the all-important Algarve Cup, an annual tournament that in World Cup years serves as a miniature tune-up to the main event.
Aya Miyama assumed the captaincy from Sawa in 2012. Sawa said after the 2012 Olympics — where Japan settled for the silver medal after losing to the U.S. in the final — that she was retiring from international soccer.
But Sawa returned for the 2014 Asian Games, where Japan claimed the continental crown for the first time. And she said earlier this year that she was not retiring before the World Cup.
Sasaki says Sawa earned her place back into the team.
“I haven’t picked her for experience alone,” Sasaki told reporters. “She’s been selected to make the team stronger and to bring more tactical awareness. I’ve seen her play for (club side) Kobe and she puts her body on the line, and is focused for the full 90 minutes. With Sawa’s essence added, the team becomes more powerful.”
Four other women have appeared in five World Cups: Kristine Lilly (USA), Bente Nordby (Norway), Formiga (Brazil) and Birgit Prinz (Germany). Formiga is also expected to compete in her sixth World Cup for Brazil this year.
Two men — Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal and Germany’s Lothar Matthäus — appeared in five World Cups.
Japan will begin its World Cup title defense in Group C against Switzerland, Cameroon and Ecuador.
Japan’s Women’s World Cup roster
Goalkeepers: Miho Fukumoto (Okayama), Ayumi Kaihori (Kobe), Erina Yamane (JEF United Chiba)
Defenders: Yukari Kinga (Kobe), Megumi Kamionobe (Niigata), Azusa Iwashimizu (Beleza), Aya Sameshima (Kobe), Saori Ariyoshi (Beleza), Kana Kitahara (Niigata), Yuri Kawamura (Sendai), Saki Kumagai (Olympique Lyonnais)
Midfielders: Homare Sawa (Kobe), Kozue Ando (Frankfurt), Aya Miyama (Okayama), Nahomi Kawasumi (Kobe), Mizuho Sakaguchi (Beleza), Asuna Tanaka (Kobe), Rumi Utsugi (Montpellier), Asano Nagasato (Potsdam)
Forwards: Shinobu Ono (Kobe), Yuki Ogimi (Wolfsburg), Yuika Sugasawa (Chiba), Mana Iwabuchi (Bayern Munich)
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