Star Sawa eyes repeat

Homare Sawa has fond memories of facing Argentina. After all, it was against the South Americans that the Japan playmaker scored her first FIFA Women's World Cup goals four Septembers ago.

Colombus, Ohio was the setting for the group-stage meeting between the countries and Sawa recalls clearly her telling contribution. "I scored two goals, the first one I controlled a cross and volleyed it in. For the second, I flicked another cross in with the outside of my foot." Sawa's first-half strikes that day opened the floodgates for an eventual 6-0 victory and what Japan would give for a repeat performance when the sides meet again in Shanghai on Friday.

After their opening 2-2 draw with England, Hiroshi Ohashi's charges believe that only victory will do against Argentina given that Germany await in their final Group A game. "After drawing against England we have to beat Argentina and score as many goals as possible," Sawa, the star name of Japanese women's football, told after Thursday's training session at Donghua University.

Given Argentina's 11-0 drubbing by Germany, it seems reasonable to suggest that both Japan and England will fancy their chances against the South Americans while acknowledging it will take something special to beat the world champions. Following this line of logic, goal difference could prove a factor in the final reckoning and Sawa admitted: "You always want to score as many goals as possible in a game but we know that if we score a lot of goals it will help our chances of getting a quarter-final place."

That said, the NTV Beleza player appreciates too that Argentina will be desperate for a restorative result after their Opening Match humiliation. "It could be tough. Argentina lost against Germany so they are going to make a big effort to beat us," said the No10. Tough perhaps but you suspect Sawa is confident of making her mark against the Argentinians once more.

Not since her first FIFA Women's World Cup in 1995 have Japan survived the group stage. Not even the 6-0 win over Argentina in 2003, which featured a 16-minute Mio Otani hat-trick, was enough last time round - followed as it was by two defeats - but, not surprisingly, Sawa is hoping for better here in China. "This is my fourth World Cup and I have a lot of experience now. I hope to put that to good effect here," she concluded.