As the world of football counts down to the reveal of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ official emblem and slogan – in Paris on 19 September – we are interviewing leading figures from the women’s game about the past, present and future of the tournament.
- Two views on Japan’s Germany 2011 win
- Saki Kumagai, the seasoned campaigner who proved decisive in that final
- Mami Ueno, the rising star who is looking to make a mark at France 2019
Asked to look ahead to the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, to be held in France between 7 June and 7 July 2019, Mami Ueno and Saki Kumagai made their intentions clear. “I hope to be there to help Japan get the best possible result,” they both told FIFA.com.
While Ueno has only just begun her international career, Kumagai has a World Cup winner’s medal in her possession, not to mention an Olympic silver medal. Yet despite the gap in experience between them, they are both thrilled at the prospect of France 2019.
“After seeing the standard on display at the Women’s EURO, it’s clear that women’s football is improving fast all over the world,” said Nadeshiko captain Kumagai, who plays her club football for Olympique Lyonnais. “The gap between countries is closing all the time, and that makes it difficult for me to pick a favourite. I’m just going to try my hardest to make sure Japan are contenders.”
Saki Kumagai, 26
- A world champion at Germany 2011
- A World Cup runner-up at Canada 2015
- A silver medallist at London 2012
- Took part in two FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups (Chile 2008 and Germany 2010)
- The winner of four Ligue 1 titles and four French Cups
- Won the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2016 and 2017
Understandably for a player who is still only 20, Ueno has a more modest career record. Having collected a bronze medal and the adidas Golden Ball at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016, her objective now is to make it to France 2019, which she hopes to achieve by being responsible and working hard.
Curiously, both have scored important goals in big games against USA: Ueno did so in the match for third place at Papua New Guinea 2016, with Kumagai doing likewise in the Final at Germany 2011.
Memories of Germany
Ueno, who was 14 at the time, was unable to watch that 2011 Final, a game in which the Nadeshiko snatched the world crown after the tightest of games against the Americans. “I’d started playing football by then,” she said. “That win had a huge impact on me. Homare Sawa was my idol. She’s been my superhero since I was a child.”
Kumagai was one of central figures that glorious night. “I’ll never forget the golden confetti that rained down on us on the podium, during the presentation,” she said with a hint of emotion in her voice. “The most special moment, though, was the penalty shootout. I went last, after 120 minutes of football in which we never gave up, despite falling behind to the Americans twice.”
What was the secret to that success? “We played as a team,” she replied. “I felt the team was getting better and better with every game. And the most important thing was having experienced players there. That was huge.”
Kumagai is one of those ‘experienced players’ now. Come France 2019, it will be her job to motivate youngsters such as Hina Sugita and Ueno, who is ready for the task in hand: “Winning a World Cup is very difficult, but I want to take that step one day and reach that level.”