Homare Sawa’s retirement last week leaves FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nominee Aya Miyama and experienced striker Yuki Ogimi as key veterans of the Japan national team. Though the pair are still very much in their respective primes, they have now shared 12 years together wearing the Nadeshiko colours.

The same duo were once again front and centre during Japan’s charge to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final™ in Canada, just as they were equally prominent four years earlier in the Nadeshiko’s historic victory at Germany 2011, and also as the team earned the 2012 London Olympics’ silver medal.

Miyama was named winner of the Canada 2015 adidas Bronze Ball and, remarkably, also picked up the Live Your Goals Player of the Match award in all three of Japan’s group games. Ogimi, for her part, was a constant danger at Canada 2015, notably scoring in the Final.

Given the pair’s numerous shared experiences, Ogimi is well placed to provide judgement on the Japan captain’s playing and personal attributes. The pair first met on the field when Ogimi was just 16, competing in the AFC U-19 Championship and Miyama was two years older.

“She is amazing, as a football player and also as a person,” Ogimi told FIFA.com about her captain. “What comes first in her mind is always about the team. She speaks out for the team and is a player who can work hard for the team.”

Strength and leadership
Miyama will be up against USA star Carli Lloyd and now retired Germany striker Celia Sasic when the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year is announced on 11 January in Zurich. Playing for Frankfurt in the Frauen Bundesliga means Ogimi has plenty of first-hand experience of Sasic, whom she describes as “possessing all the characteristics of a striker and with a great mentality”.

As for Miyama, the Japanese midfielder has been named AFC Player of the Year for a third time. The last time Miyama received such recognition she donated the entire prize money to children’s charity UNICEF. That single act says much about Miyama’s character.

And Ogimi is effusive in her praise of Miyama as both a person and a leader. “Aya brings unity, cooperativeness, and creates an atmosphere where the team naturally becomes focused and ready to play,” she says. “Aya brings gentleness and at the same time firmness. And she cares for her team-mates more than anyone.”