Japan are the rulers of women’s world football at U-17 level and Hina Sugita is their queen. The scorer of five goals at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014 and the provider of two assists, the Little Nadeshiko skipper was the outstanding player of the tournament and stepped up to collect the adidas Golden Ball at the end of an exceptional three weeks for her side, which they capped in style with a 2-0 defeat of Spain in Friday’s final.
The No10 found time for a word with FIFA.com straight after the presentation ceremony and was asked her for her views on winning a trophy that had eluded her two years earlier in Azerbaijan, where the Japanese went out in the last eight.
FIFA.com: What does it mean to be a world champion?
Hina Sugita: I feel really, really, really happy! So, so happy (smiles)!
And what does it mean to you to earn individual recognition with the adidas Golden Ball?
My first thoughts are for my team-mates because the whole side has played really well and we’ve had a great tournament in a collective sense. I wouldn’t have won this award without them.
You lost to Ghana in the quarter-finals two years ago. Did you imagine then that you’d back here to win the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup?
It all feels like I’m living a dream. I woke up this morning feeling like I was in a trance and I didn’t quite believe we were about to play the final. I just didn’t feel that was happening was real. But then when I walked out on to the pitch before the match, it suddenly began to dawn on me that it was all for real. Then I started to think about the previous tournament, about that defeat to Ghana and all the effort I’ve since put in to get here today. I’m still a bit taken aback by just how far we’ve come.
Was this final against Spain your toughest match yet?
Yes, no question, because we were all very tired. It was fortunate for us that we managed to score early on because we weren’t at our best for long periods of the game. We weren’t able to put together the kind of attacks we’d managed in our previous matches. Though we never gave up and we managed to play our usual game, I still think it was our worst performance of the tournament.
Japan weren’t at their best in the final and yet still managed to win 2-0. What do you think the future holds for what is an exceptional generation of players?
This result is only the start. If we rest on our laurels, then we won’t move forward. If we want to be great players, we need to keep on working and set ourselves new objectives. And if we keep on making progress, then maybe we can get the call for the U-20s and the senior team too. We have to put in a lot of hard work and that’s only going to make our national team stronger.
Do you have a message for all the people who have supported you during this adventure?
I’d like to thank the fans, all the supporters who have followed us this far. A lot of people have been giving us their encouragement since the start of the tournament, and today we’ve been lucky enough to play in this great stadium and in front of a big crowd. I am very happy that we’ve able to show what we can do in front of all these people. Thanks to the encouragement we’ve had from them, we’ve managed to keep on going and make it all the way. I’m grateful to all of them.