Olympic veteran still inspired
© Foto-net

It's easy to see that Japan captain and midfield star Homare Sawa is in an Olympic frame of mind. How? She has painted her nails in the colours of the Olympic flag!

"This is a special tournament," the three-time Olympic veteran told FIFA.com. "This is my third Olympics and I still get excited about playing in the Games. I'm really enjoying this one in China."

Like her colleagues, Sawa felt that Japan could have done better against a surprising New Zealand side, although she was glad that the team found the strength to fight back in the second half.

"It was a tough match against New Zealand, they surprised us. They played better than we thought they would do - and I have to say that I'm a little disappointed that we didn't beat them. Having said that, coming back from 2-0 down has given us great confidence to take into the next match. It shows the spirit that we have. We never give up."

Special significance
Japan's next match at the event, against the USA, will have special significance for Sawa. The Japanese captain played in the short-lived Women's United Soccer Association league in the USA for three years, and still has fond memories of her time in the States, and the distinguished company she enjoyed.

"I had a great time playing in the USA," she recalled. "It made me improve a lot as a player. I was playing alongside the likes of Briana Scurry and Cindy Parlow."

"I'm excited to be playing them on Saturday, They are so strong as a team, it's hard to single one person in particular out. I was really surprised that they lost against Norway, and I know they'll really want to beat us, so that will make our job even harder."

Sawa has some inside knowledge about the player likely to mark her in the encounter, a fellow veteran with whom she crossed swords during her time with the Atlanta Heat. "I'll probably be playing directly against Shannon Boxx, who I came up against in my days in WUSA - and I'll be in for a tough match."

"She's a great player. She's tall, strong, physical and has great technical ability, but I'm confident that I'll do well against her. I'll be doing my best to score."

One thing is for certain: given Sawa's successful spell on the other side of the Pacific, and her esteemed reputation in the world of football as a whole, the USA will be showing the experienced Japanese playmaker the utmost respect.